Architecture students from Germany’s University of Kaiserslautern teamed up with 25 refugees to build a timber community center for a refugee camp in Mannheim, Germany. Completed as part of the “Building Together—Learning Together” program, the 550-square-meter structure breathes new life into the bare-bones surroundings with a beautiful new gathering space. The design/build project prioritized ecological and cost-effective design without compromising construction quality.


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The timber community center was created in response to the desolate conditions of the Mannheim refugee camp located on the former American Spinelli Barracks. To aid in the refugee crisis, 18 architecture students teamed up with 25 refugees to design the new building, from concept to final build.

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The students lived at the refugee camp and worked intensively for six weeks from mid-August to the end of October to realize the project and help teach their new coworkers basic building skills and German.

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The community center is made almost entirely of lightweight untreated timber, with the larger components prefabricated in a hangar of the former military facility and later assembled onsite.

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The main walls are clad in Douglas fir while the latticework walls are used as structural support, allowing for natural ventilation and light while also creating a beautiful dappled play of light and shadow. The center wraps around a small garden courtyard as well as a large outdoor events space. Built-in seating is arranged around this area, shielded from the elements by a two-meter-wall canopy and partitions. The center also includes a pair of storerooms that can be adapted for different uses in the future.

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Via ArchDaily

Images © Yannick Wegner

Mannheim community center, community center in refugee camp, design/build architecture students with refugees, architecture students refugee camp project, American Spinelli Barracks community center, prefabricated community center

Mannheim community center, community center in refugee camp, design/build architecture students with refugees, architecture students refugee camp project, American Spinelli Barracks community center, prefabricated community center

Mannheim community center, community center in refugee camp, design/build architecture students with refugees, architecture students refugee camp project, American Spinelli Barracks community center, prefabricated community center