Migration, Housing, Borders

Author: Anthony Monta

Refugees by the canal

Refugees camping by a canal
Photo by austinevan via Flickr.com/ CC 2.0


Physical conditions are often staggeringly bad in Europe’s “tent cities,” which are intended to house migrants and asylum seekers. 

Can they be improved in the short term? In the longer term, how might European countries re-imagine their border towns in order to deal more humanely with the ongoing realities of mass migration?

Nanovic fellow Richard Economakis (Director of Graduate Studies, Architecture) has been working on and presenting practical answers to these questions. 

His work has now gained the attention of the Vatican, which has accepted his recent work for presentation this summer at the 53rd “International Making Cities Livable” (IMCL) conference in June. There he will also have an audience with Pope Francis, who will be on hand to receive an award from IMCL. The Pope is interested in humane and sustainable solutions to problems posed by mass migration; so too is the High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations.

Economakis has been developing designs for “refugee villages” that can be constructed quickly, in sufficient volume, and at a low cost — i.e. attractive to private investors — with durable materials such as sun-dried brick. 

Based on architectural principles and designs from Greece, and organized around centrally-located churches, mosques, and facilities, these villages can be adapted and re-purposed by local populations. 

Economakis presented his ideas at an event organized by the Center for Social Concerns with other Nanovic fellows such as Maurizio Albahari (Anthropology). The panel discussion can be viewed here:



Although the movement of peoples remains a complicated and multi-dimensional problem, the Nanovic Institute is proud that its fellows, like Economakis and Albahari, are engaged in addressing the issue in all its complexity at the practical level. 

We have no doubt that in this research area, Institute fellows and their international partners will have much to say. And do.


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