Refugee Camp for Syrians in Jordan Evolves as a Do-It-Yourself City –

Main market in Zaatari. From

This is a little bit old, but I really wanted to share it. In this story, Michael Kimmelman describes Zaatari, a refugee camp in Jordan, where it’s residents have turned what was meant to be a temporary camp into a self-built city. Residents have replaced tents with permanent structures, created basic utility networks, built shops and services, and even implemented a postal service. Even when the war in Syria ends, Zaatari will probably remain a permanent settlement, whether inhabited by Syrian refugees or native Jordanians. It’s raising the question of whether refugee camps should be built as temporary structures or as a new home or a second chance for civilization.

I wonder how Americans would organize themselves differently if they had to create a large self-built settlement today. Could we build our own sewage systems and steal electricity? Would we be willing to sell tea in the street? Would we build simple, narrow pathways that create shade and natural ventilation? Or would we insist on building massive roads for cars, because that’s what we’re used to?


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

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