CALAIS KIDS SPACE: A Community Space that worksProfile
by Richard O’Hanlon, Peter Dew and Carlotta Conte (AA Part 1), Tak Tak Tak
29 June 2016
Concept axonometric drawing
What is the Calais Kids Space for Richard?
The Calais Kids Space is a dormitory and teaching space for unaccompanied children living in the Calais refugee and migrant camp, informally known as the ‘Jungle’. It will mainly be used by minors who are without family and have just arrived in the camp. When I first visited the Jungle, I was shocked by the large number of children and teenagers living there – all going through a crucial stage of personal development, in terrible conditions. It’s right to aim for improvement, and we are building a space where children can feel safer and cared about. For this reason, we have designed a dignified and humane space which, with the help of the community, we will build in August. But also, it is a building that won’t inflame the ongoing politics of an illegal settlement. In fact, the Calais Kids Space is designed to be prefabricated and assembled in a short period of time and, if necessary, to be dismantled and transported elsewhere. It is necessary for it to be a temporary space, because I do not think an adequate solution for migrant communities lies in the camp becoming a permanent settlement but it is important to improve the standard of living until a solution can be found.
Assembly phase 2: lifting the wall frames into position
Assembly phase 4: slotting the window frames into place
Why does Pete believe in a communal space for kids?
After spending time in the Jungle I realised how community buildings are intrinsic to any semblance of hope and togetherness; acting as safe places for children and as hubs for the camp’s residents to come together. My main aim is to improve these places through simple changes in the design and build of this new space. I believe the quality of their environment penetrates deeply into how these communities are perceived globally, and how the residents perceive themselves. Most buildings and shelters in Calais are built under extreme pressure. This pressure means that things are done quickly in order to provide immediate aid to anybody who needs it. We have had the gift of time to think through the implementation of the Calais Kids Space in detail. By acting upon this opportunity we will build something which will contribute to the solutions the residents and volunteers are working hard to find.
Front view of Calais Kids Space around ‘Jungle’ shelters
Why does Carlotta personally care?
Recent European politics remind me that this refugee crisis is mostly a policy crisis, where countries instead of opening their borders, have chosen to reinforce them. It’s extremely important to cross barriers and work through limitations in order to aim for a greater acceptance of different cultures and backgrounds. I got involved with the Calais Kids Space because I want to use my professional skills to contribute to this unfortunate situation as well as to learn from others. I believe in an exchange and not in a one-way charitable action. I personally care about the project because by coming together we can enrich each other’s skills and knowledge. Our biggest hope is to bring home new, fresh images of this place that is usually described as unknown and scary, and too often associated with the cause of the current crisis rather than its potential solution.
Model in construction phase – front
What can the architectural community do to help us succeed?
We are a collective of architects with little marketing and media experience. As it is extremely important to raise awareness and to help improve the situation for unaccompanied children in the ‘Jungle’, we need all the possible expertise to be able to reach out to as many people as possible. We need your help to boost our crowdfunding campaign and to keep people aware and updated on the work we are doing in Calais. Thank you very much!