Petra Refugee Camp

Workshop examines architectural and urban methods in relation to refugee camps


Petra Field TripIn a one-day event Sheffield MA in Architectural Design students shared ideas and skills about how architecture can contribute towards an understanding of the space of a refugee camp. 

Course leader, Dr Nishat Awan and PhD Student, Aya Musmar led the workshop on 9 February, which was organised jointly with the University of Petra. The Sheffield masters students worked alongside students from Petra as part of their field trip for the Border Topologies studio. The design studio explores architecture's relationship with border geographies asking what can architecture do as unprecedented numbers of people are on the move across the world due to war, climate change and poverty.

Students worked across a number of districts in the Za’atri refugee camp using architectural and urban methods to understand how social and power relations are embedded with spatial relations. The workshop also examined the objects and materialities of the camp by working with stories and accounts of everyday life. Students produced models, drawings and scenarios that imagined how life in the camp could be improved, for example by providing common spaces or through adapting the barbed wire fences around schools in the camp.


Dr Nishat Awan explains “The field trip to Jordan was a really rewarding experience for all of us. We came back with a renewed understanding of the refugee crisis and the role that architects can play in helping those who have fled war and persecution.

The joint workshop between MA in Architectural Design students from Sheffield University and Petra University showed how important it is to work with people from different backgrounds in order to solve these important issues in architecture.

This semester we will develop studio projects based in the Za'atri refugee camp and the aim is to present some of these to The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) so that they can be implemented on the ground. These designs will be developed in partnership with Bryden Wood Associates, a London based architectural practice. I am looking forward to seeing all the amazing designs students will produce!”

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