Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response
Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Since August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya have fled genocide in their native Myanmar for Bangladesh and what have become the world’s largest refugee camps – outnumbering the local population. The more than 75 percent who are women or children are particularly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and gender-based violence.

The programming, design and construction of these six spaces was a profoundly participatory process involving both refugees and locals. They comprise, first, a women-friendly space containing not only areas for counselling and life skills advice as standard in such structures, but also for community-based protection activities, psychosocial support, breastfeeding, and a courtyard where women can chat and girls can play safely. On a similar model in another camp is a safe space for women and girls that caters to both refugees and locals. The third space, a display and production centre, offers a livelihood generation platform for Rohingya women to craft products that showcase their culture and sell them to visitors. Finally there are three community centres: one unusually with an upper storey, necessary here due to limited ground space; another, serving a Hindu Rohingya camp with particular domestic violence issues as well as the host community, separated into men’s and women’s buildings; and the last, focusing on socio-economic support for the host community, which is designed around the donated site’s pre-existing betel-nut trees, resisting the tendency towards deforestation.

Materials used vary from the locally available and traditional – bamboo, brick, betel-nut wood and thatch, relying on local and Rohingya craftsmen’s expertise – to conventional cement and corrugated metal. Each centre has unique features that tie it to its context: a gatehouse traditional to the region at the first women-friendly space; paintings by craftsmen and adolescent girls at the second; Burmese welcoming inscriptions and floor paintings, and an entrance inspired by those of Rohingya houses, at the display and production centre; local natural mats over steel window panels at the first community centre; and triangular wall perforations at the others, inspired by a feature used for ventilation in the region. Plantings use indigenous species that carry emotional and cultural significance within the Rohingya community.

Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
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Occupancy 2019
1,505 m²
Building Usages
urban design and development