Life saving designs
Abeer Seikaly is a young female designer. She describes her work as being rooted in the process of memory - journaling, documenting, archiving, and collecting - to create objects, spaces, and experiences. She has been working on creating technologically innovative tents for refugees that, if created and distributed, will change the look and feel of refugee camps of the future. Abeer spoke with us about her plans to design the refugee camps of the future.
What is your current job now?
I've directed Amman Design Week on a number of occasions, an annual event that provides learning opportunities to a wide audience with the underlying mission to foster a culture of designthinking- collaboration in Jordan. Simultaneously, I am leading the development of my project, Weaving a Home, a tent that is reinvented with a structural fabric for the purpose of becoming a proud home for the displaced that empowers them to weave communities - and go beyond mere survival.
Why did you decide to make tents for refugees?
While the unpredictability of disasters has become in recent years quite predictable, mainly due to the effects of climate change and global political unrest, the response to the masses of people forced out of their homes and sometimes their countries is based on antiquated design systems that are non-functional as well as uninspired. Refugee shelters are often too complicated to be built quickly enough, too rigid to accommodate different sizes of families or scales of function (for example, expanding from being houses to medical clinics to schools to community centres), and they lack the basic necessities of contemporary life such as heat, running water and plumbing, electricity, and internet connections. Refugee camps are often drab, deficient in natural light, and reflect the dismal situation that its inhabitants find themselves in out of no fault of their own. Beyond the physical failures of current refugee camps, there is a failure at the social level as well. Because disasters cause communities to break down, shelters must begin to rebuild social interaction. Because disasters destroy existing environments, shelters must transform what remains into something new yet familiar.
I believe that it is my duty as an architect to solve the functional and constructional problems of the buildings I design and also understand that my role is to serve society. Many changes are unfolding on our planet and my role is to try to affect those changes through inserting technological innovation into social and cultural environments.
How did the idea first come to you?
I have been working for many years on developing ideas related to fabric architecture and in redefining the role that fabric can play in our living spaces. These ideas collided with the biggest refugee crisis that the modern world has seen and so the need for it arose through a competition that I participated in - The Lexus Design Award of 2013 - which called for “design” that responds to various issues in daily life in relation to “motion”, and provides solutions. To me the idea of movement is very much rooted in the idea of migration of communities and the displacement of people all over the world and throughout history. The basic lack of availability of proper housing really touched me and my interest in developing it became more rooted within a humanitarian context.
How did you create a prototype? Did you get any help?
I am currently collaborating with various entities who are helping me develop the work. It is still a work in progress and I hope to test it out in April 2018.
Do you think that you can get any investors to start your business in producing the tents?
Many entities and individuals have expressed interest in funding or assisting in funding the work. I think that once you have a viable product that is needed, then funding should not be an issue.
Have you had offers to purchase the tent?
Many offers; however, at this stage, I am focusing on getting the first functional prototype tested after which we can begin thinking of manufacturing.
Who encouraged you to push forward with this project?
My family and close friends encouraged me, as they believe in my capacity to come up with a solution to such problems through design.
How have people reacted when you first tell them about your idea?
People are very positive and they were able to identify with the work closely as it holds various values and ideas that allow us to rethink how we are living in the 21st century.
Do you consider yourself as an entrepreneur?
I don’t really think about business and only consider that it is my duty to serve society through my work and experience.
Can you give our readers a few words of wisdom - especially young women like yourself - who might be thinking of presenting their ideas to the world?
Women are natural creators. I would encourage all women to nurture their ideas and believe in themselves. Most importantly, always work with good intentions. To read more about Abeer Seikaly, visit: www.abeerseikaly.com