Shifting Horizons 2.0 — Architecture Competition by

Architecture Design Competition ‘Shifting Horizons 2.0’ Launched by UNI —Design Challenge for a Community Center for Venezuelan refugees

Fig: 1 — Migration occurs in patterns where a certain amount of people leave the region in intervals (Credits- Sebastien Gold)

Immigration crisis

Immigration around the world has been a recurring phenomenon since migration is an inherent human trait. From the ancient civilizations to the richest countries, everyone has faced migration at some point in its history. A country’s policies, politics, and economic state have a major influence on migration, both for the country and the immigrants. The displacement rate due to migration fluctuates yearly, but it is a problem that is always constant. While the causes of migration differ from region to region, environmental, political, social, and safety from war usually are the triggers behind huge migrations. European migrant crisis and World War II evacuation and expulsion are the largest ones in the history of mankind. The more recent mass migrations are driven by wars, political conflict, and violations of human rights.

A prominent example of this is the Venezuelan crisis, whose migration rate has increased up to 4.6 million in the last 5 years and the number is expected to double by the end of 2021.

Fig: 2 — Venezuelan Refugees on the borders of Colombia (Credits-Miko)

Offering aid to refugees

Unlike other refugee crises, the Venezuelan crisis is not because of a conventional war or conflict. But a result of a mismanaged socialist revolution that led the oil-based economy to collapse into hyperinflation.

The crisis has manifested widespread poverty and chronic shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities. The conditions that Venezuelans faced daily were not much different than those in active war zones.

Moreover, the authorities have rejected all humanitarian aid offered by NGOs and other countries, thus increasing the number of people continuing to leave the country. Most Venezuelans to date seek refuge in neighboring countries.

The figure of Venezuelan migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers reported by host governments has gone up to 5,563,687 as of March 2021.

Fig: 3 — Refugee Camps (Credits- Julie Ricard)

Better living facilities

After the 1950 crisis, the UN established UNHCR to provide aid for the refugees, it has served and helped many.

Since 2015, the UNHCR has had camps in South America to help this ongoing mass migration in Venezuela.

While camps are temporary in the intention of providing shelter, the lack of space in immediate cities has overcrowded these camps. On top of that, there are thousands of refugees crossing borders every day.

Some major challenges faced daily include lack of electricity, unorganized immigration procedures, organized crimes earning money through illegal methods, and racism.

Can a built form provide better facilities for the migrants?

Can a temporary refuge protect the migrants and handle the overcrowding issues?

Fig: 4 — An example of infrastructure for displaced people (Credits-Filippo Bolognese)

Brief of the competition

This massive Venezuelan displacement will continue as long as the oppressive forces stay in power. With the international community just referring to it as a regional crisis, global help and aid are not yet realized. As of now, there are 17 regional host nations housing lakhs of migrants. The health and community infrastructure of these nations is under pressure.

In such a difficult situation, can architecture play a part in offering good infrastructure?

Brief: Design a community center to provide temporary refuge shelter offering necessities and facilities for protection.

Bordering countries mostly just offer a stopping point for many, and health situations get worse as they move to better countries by walking or going through dangerous criminal groups.

Design a center that offers spaces and amenities of awareness, assistance, and education that can prepare them for better movement.

Design Objectives

The following objectives can be a point of beginning to conceive this design.

  • Flexible: Design for future overcrowding issues.
  • Education/Information/Training: A means to enable them to understand migration and legal procedures, as well as providing them to be equipped to handle hostile and dangerous conditions.
  • Context: Take into account the regional materials and ways of construction.
  • Maintainability: Application of simple construction techniques to enable easy upkeep.


Fig: 4 — Site image

The reaction of thousands of migrants arriving in different countries varies, as some have the infrastructure to house new communities but others feel the burden of housing new problems. Colombia, being an immediate country nearby, has opened its border for the Venezuelans. About 5 million migrants have entered Colombia, and continue to do so by 3000 a day. This influx adds tension in a country grappling with issues of its own.

The site is located in Maico, a city located in La Guajira. Between 60,000 and 80,000 migrants are estimated to be living in or around Maicao in refugee camps. Designing a community center near it may take off the pressure on the city as well as the UNHCR.

  • Area: 10,056 sq.m
  • Height restriction: 8 metres
  • Maximum Built Up Area: 10,056 sq.m
  • Ground coverage: 50%
  • Setbacks (as per CAD plan)
  • Coordinates: 11°22'41.2"N 72°12'14.2"W

Area program

The user group for the conception of the design may be designed to be housed in ~80 temporary residential quarters, with roughly one residential quarter for 4 people. The other facilities may be designed following the same user group in mind, under a single building or in separate zones.

The participants are free to experiment with ideas that would enable incrementation in the center for providing the increasing number of refugees.

Find all the competition brief, terms, and other registration guidelines on this

page: Shifting Horizons 2.0 | Housing Architecture Competition on UNI | About

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