Design Student Proposes Small, But Humane Tweaks to Swiss Refugee Bunkers

Iskander Guetta’s award-winning Abri+ project upgrades the standard furniture found in Switzerland’s temporary shelters.

abri design refugee
Iskander Guetta’s project Abri+ was shown at WantedDesign Brooklyn, thanks to Swiss Touch, an initiative that promotes emerging designers from Switzerland. Courtesy Sandrine Charvet

Faced with an influx of refugees, Swiss defense minister Ueli Maurer hit upon an unusual idea in 2015: Asylum seekers could be temporarily housed in the country’s vast network of bunkers, which were built as nuclear fallout shelters in the 1960s. It seemed like a logical solution, but as design student Iskander Guetta toured the refugees’ new living quarters in 2017, he was shocked by what he found: “Everything had the same color, the same tables, chairs, walls. It made me think of a prison.”

So for his graduation project at the Lausanne University of Art and Design, Guetta created a set of simple accessories to make bunker living more humane. Consisting of clips, hooks, a wireless lamp, and a storage solution, the award-winning collection provides an open-ended way for refugees to personalize their space and make themselves a bit more comfortable, until they can find more permanent accommodations.

You may also enjoy “Designing for the Moment Refugees Become Neighbors.

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