Shelter and sanctuary are not often recognized as an artistic work for refugees fleeing from persecution. But for emerging London-based designer Natasha Reid of An Embassy for Refugees project, the two go hand in hand. Reid worked with children to spur an innovative sculptural pavilion for the UK’s Refugee Week held this past June. Part advocacy, part architectural genius at its best, Reid’s commissioned experimental structures are a traveling artwork called the “Transient Sanctuary,” made of a flat-pack kit of over 700 precisely machine-cut timber parts. The two intimately scaled structures display the paradoxical characteristics of shelter: enclosure and openness; protection and exposure; permanence and transience. Click through our gallery for an intimate look at this design that explores concepts of refuge.
Reid worked with children from a refugee charity to develop the design through a series of art workshops. Collaboration with engineers Arup helped Reid to craft a complex 3D modeling technique that offered a low-tech solution for building the shelter easily, and quickly by hand.
The cocoon-like space also housed the The UN Refugee Agency who presented their latest report alongside an art installation developed with school children.
Developed in the short span of three months, Reid relied heavily on engaging widespread support through in-kind donations from ethical organizations that helped to push the project forward. Brilliantly combining design with participatory public art, innovative engineering, and human rights advocacy, Reid’s “Embassy for Refugees” is both a well-executed work of art and a now standing and functional venue for public enjoyment on London’s South Bank.
States Reid on the project’s website:
“An Embassy for Refugees” claims a territory for those that seek refuge in our city. Can diplomacy be employed for the marginalised [sic] rather than the powerful? Representation for the misrepresented?”
Images © Miguel Santa Clara