4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
‘Refugee Housing, without Exception’
Speakers: Kai Wood Mah, Associate Professor, Architecture, Laurentian University and Patrick Lynn Rivers, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
South Africa experienced its most recent wave of xenophobic violence in April 2015. Those fomenting verbal, physical, and psychic violence mostly targeted other Africans without South African citizenship. Between the 2015 attacks, and a previous wave of highly publicised attacks in 2008, South Africa’s government secretly drew up plans to construct “model” camps that would be used to house migrants with refugee status and those seeking refugee status. The paper is used to understand the space of exception created by the government’s indelicate proposal especially considering South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past. Beyond this, the paper is deployed to present a conceptual camp design as counterproposal that highlights design’s power to negate the spatial exception frequently associated with the camp.
Kai Wood Mah is a registered architect with the Ordre des architects du Québec and a design historian. His research in architecture and the history of education is an extension of his broad interest in social architecture since the nineteenth century in the Global South and North. He has lectured on this subject as an invited speaker and as a presenter at national and international conferences. His writing has appeared in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes.
Patrick Lynn Rivers is a political scientist broadly interested in culture, politics, and policy. This interest is reflected in his book Governing Hate and Race in the United States and South Africa as well as peer-reviewed articles appearing in journals like Critical Studies in Media Communication, the South African Law Journal, and African Identities. He is completing a book on ideological conflicts and convergences within South Africa’s liberation movement.
Mah and Rivers are co-directors of Afield, a design research practice. They are collaborators on several South African projects bringing together the methods and insights of architecture and social science. The projects are varied and include investigations of communities transitioning from informal to formal housing, new forced removals, economies of school construction, and democratic crèche design.