The Rohingya people are one of the world’s most mistreated refugee populations having lived in a stateless state for over six generations. The number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has significantly expanded since the last Rohingya refugee influx from Myanmar began on August 25, 2017. Many architects and humanitarian organizations have been working for the community since the start of the influx. 55% of the refugees are children who are predominantly vulnerable in the camps. The children and adolescents are living in deplorable circumstances and growing up without proper childhood development, recreational opportunities, or psycho-social assistance. After rehabilitation, there also stands a lack of safe community spaces for women. Among all the threats emerging, loss of cultural identity is also acknowledged. 

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Rohingya Refugees Crisis_©Photo: K. M. Asad
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Landscape transformation of the campsite (2009-2020)_©contextbd.com/

The examples discussed below are in no particular sequence, but provide an overview of diverse designs of community architecture envisioned for the Rohingya Community in Bangladesh. 

1. Integrated Community Center in Hindu-para, Rohingya Refugee Camp

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Interior View_©www.de51gn.com

Architects: Rizvi Hassan and Team
Year: 2019
Area: 221 m²
Location: Cox’s Bazar – Teknaf
Materials: Wood, Bamboo, Metal, Steel, Concrete
Client: Forcefully displaced Myanmar Nationals & Bangladeshi Host Community in Kutupalong, Supported by UNHCR & BRAC

Among Rohingya refugees, there is a minority group living in the biggest refugee camp, Kutupalong identified as – The Hindupara community. The Center was intended to serve as a shared platform for enhanced interaction between refugees and the host community, as well as between majority and minority groups. 

Due to the rising scarcity of bamboo, steel was used in construction as an effective alternative solution as the steel industry in Bangladesh is located near the site and is based in the port city Chittagong. A basic foundation, steel framework, modular segmentation as the skin, and a simple double pitched roof that acts as an umbrella in this sub-tropical monsoon climate are all part of the project. Using the ‘Muli’ bamboo in-fill in the modular system as a contextual material makes it more sympathetic to Rohingya refugees and local villages. 

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Structural System_©Rizvi Hassan
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Site Plan_©Rizvi Hassan
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Materiality_© Rizvi Hassan

2. Aloon Lar Shay Pha la (Come and see us): Display and Production Center for Rohingya Women

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©Architect Khwaja Fatmi and team

Architects: Khwaja Fatmi and Team
Year: 2019
Area: 102 m²
Location: Camp no. 11, Rohingya Refugee Camps in Ukhiya
Materials: Bamboo and Thatch
Client: Funded by WFP (World Food Program), Implemented by ActionAid Bangladesh

As the crisis gradually began to settle after a few years, it started to reach the extent where they are receiving basic services. This center was developed with a vision towards women empowerment to showcase the culture and craftsmanship of communal artists as a community of creative individuals. To beautify the display center, they painted the walls and courtyards inscribing auspicious messages. The entry gate of the display center has ‘Istegbal’ (meaning welcome) inscribed and ‘Aloon Lar Shay Pha la’ (meaning Come and see us) on the other.

The major objective of this facility is to provide a production space for women to manufacture their handmade products, as well as an exhibition center for those products to be displayed and sold. The two spaces – display and production areas are connected by a large open-to-sky courtyard that is designed according to the contextual rural household courtyard in this region.

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©Architect Khwaja Fatmi and team
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Structure Details_©Khwaja Fatmi and team
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Ground Floor Plan_©Khwaja Fatmi and team

3. Learning Centers for the Displaced Rohingya Community 

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©Quazi Wafiq Alam

Architects and Design Team: Quazi Wafiq Alam (Architect), Tasadduk Hossain Dulu (Artist) & Sufian Bin Mohammed (Civil Engineer)
Year: 2019
Area: 171 m²
Location: Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Wood, Muli Bamboo, Profile Sheet
Client: Forcefully Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN)

A low-cost and sustainable learning center was created in the Rohingya camps due to a lack of space in the overcrowded camps. The structure is built in such a way that it may be quickly deconstructed and transferred to another site if necessary. Cross-bracings reinforce the building to make it more resistant to cyclonic storms, which are prevalent in the zone. The concrete foundation which supports the structure is also designed considering landslide issues.

A soft layer of Mooli Bamboo covers the steel structure. The material is familiar to the Rohingya community. The entire facade is sustainably designed and tied together using ropes, making it much easier to replace any bamboo in the future if needed. To make the learning environment livelier, the artist, the children, and the teachers were all actively involved in the creation of the artworks of the facades. The most remarkable result of the project was the creation of a sense of communal belonging. There are now 18 such two-storied LCs in operation.

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Diagrams_©Quazi Wafiq Alam
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Site Plan (LC), Ground Floor Plan (LC)_©Quazi Wafiq Alam
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Ground Floor Plan (LC)_©Quazi Wafiq Alam

4. Child-friendly Space (Multi-Purpose Center)

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CFS_©Quazi Wafiq Alam

Architects: Quazi Wafiq Alam | CODEC
Year: 2019
Area: 250 m²
Location: Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Wood, Muli Bamboo, Profile Sheet
Client: Forcefully Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN)

The goal of the project is to promote the child protection system in the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with a multi-dimensional concept and facilities that allow them to learn, play, and participate in various activities all under one roof. The design and construction incorporate artwork. Mohammed Tasadduk Hossain, the artist, collaborated closely with Rohingya children to generate the artworks in a rather interactive manner. 

The architectural design with the open floor concept allows for many activities to be accommodated according to convenience, while also providing a community space for communal activities. The structure is semi-permanent and made of locally available resources to fit a limited budget, allowing for sufficient natural light and ventilation. As the site is in a cyclone-prone area, the façade provides the envelope for the building to function well during cyclones.

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Conceptual Diagram (CFS)_© Quazi Wafiq Alam
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Ground Floor Plan (CFS)_©Quazi Wafiq Alam
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Sectional Detail (CFS)_©Quazi Wafiq Alam

4. Child Learning Center at Thaingkhali Rohingya Camp

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Child Learning Center at Thaingkhali Rohingya Camp_©Nazmul Hoque Nayeem

Architects: Ishtiaque Ahmad, Md. Nazmul Hoque Nayeem, Zahid Hasan, Rakib Adnan | Studio Spacejam
Year: 2018
Location:  Thaingkhali Rohingya Camp, near Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Bamboo and Concrete
Client: Bdesh Foundation, HMBD Foundation

In the overcrowded refugee camps, this project is a modest attempt to revive social connection by designing a child-friendly playscape. The architectural design is inspired by the construction skills of the Rohingya community. A perforated north-south façade was built to ensure adequate natural light and air circulation throughout the interior spaces. To avoid termites, bamboo columns were placed on a concrete post to detach the bamboo from the floor. The roof was given significant consideration to make it sustainable and resilient. Some play spaces were built between two sheds to attract children from the neighborhood. Reportedly, the students also use the sheds to sleep in at night as they get suitable ventilation, which is insufficient in their households. 

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Detail Section_©Studio Spacejam | Drawing by Nazmul Hoque Nayeem

5. Beyond Survival – A Safe Space for Rohingya Women & Girls

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©Rizvi Hassan

Architects: Rizvi Hassan and Team
Year: 2019
Area: 204 m²
Location: Refugee Camp 25 site in a forested area of Teknaf
Materials: Unprocessed bamboo, Straw, Rope, and Tarpaulin
Client: Forcefully displaced Myanmar Nationals (supported by UNICEF and BRAC)

The center provides a safe for adolescent girls and women from the surrounding camp area. The arrangement of the facility includes a basic introvert court which ensures privacy for women in a conservative society. Around a central courtyard, activity rooms, a store, a counseling room, and an area for adolescents are organized, giving the impression of a larger space. Bathrooms and toilets are located adjacent in separate blocks. 

Locally obtained unprocessed bamboo, straw, rope, and tarpaulin were used as materials. Since the location is in a cyclone-prone area, materials that could be hazardous during a cyclone were avoided. The site is also very close to Asian elephant habitat. To avoid unwanted occurrences, the material and exterior scheme avoids commotion for elephants resulting in the use of vibrant colors like red or yellow. The colors in the interior court and some openings also create an interactive atmosphere. 

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©Rizvi Hassan
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Ground Floor Plan_©Rizvi Hassan

6. Two-storied school at Kutupalong Camp in Cox’s for Rohingya Children by BRAC

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©www.bracu.ac.bd

Architects and Collaborators: BRAC, UNHCR, RRRC
Year: 2018
Location: Kutupalong Camp-4 of Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Bamboo and Local materials

In the extension area of Camp-4 in Kutupalong in Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, the first two-story temporary learning center (TLC) for Rohingya children has been designed. Built with locally available materials, the center is an innovative approach to one of the most important concerns among the refugees: a lack of space for educational opportunities for young children. 31,000 or more children are engaged in BRAC’s 317 temporary learning centers in the camps. Early-grade learning, core vocabulary, mathematics, psycho-social counseling, and life skills are all priorities at the centers. 

This temporary school, made of bamboo and painted bright red and yellow, has a capacity of 240 students. The architecture is based on Rohingya building strategies– enhancing durability, weather-proofing, ventilation, and space utilization. A slanted thatched roof and perforations in the front and back walls allow the air to circulate naturally through the structure, reducing the pressure. The entire construction is temporary and can be moved at any time.

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©www.bracu.ac.bd

7. Ukhia Schools in Cox’s Bazar 

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©Kashef Chowdhury

Architects: Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA
Year: 2018
Location: Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Locally available Bamboo (Mooly Bansh)
Client: Friendship

This two-story bamboo learning center in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar refugee camp was designed to promote learning facilities to Rohingya children. It is an excellent demonstration of an environmentally friendly structure that is architecturally innovative whilst integrating local construction styles. The entire structure is made of bamboo, including the walls, stairway, floors, and roof. The footprint of the structure had to be restricted to a minimum given the scarcity of space available within the high-density campsites. However, the structure opens up on the inside by separating the core structure from the external skin (outer peripheral screen), blocking external noise, rain, and solar heat gain. 

This breathable screen also lets in filtered light and maintains a comfortable indoor temperature while providing a pleasant connection to the outdoor. The alignment of the two classrooms are connected by a curved stair, creating a playful atmosphere for children. During the day, the school can run completely without electricity. 

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Ground Floor Plan (Ukhiya School)_©Kashef Chowdhury
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©Kashef Chowdhury

8. Social Infrastructure for the Rohingya Refugees by SHACC

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©SHACC Gallery Construction

Architects/Collaborators:  The Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit Competence Center (shacc.ch)
Year: 2017
Location: Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Bamboo and Local materials

Primarily in the Cox’s Bazar District, due to urgent crisis and significant demand from all sectors after the Rohingya refugee crisis started to commence, in 2017, a standardized modular system was developed. The modules were designed in a way so that they could also be utilized for a variety of functions, such as health facilities, schools, community centers, and woman-friendly areas. 

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The modules_©SHACC Gallery Construction
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Child-friendly classrooms and Primary Health Centers_©Shacc Gallery Construction
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Child-friendly classrooms and Primary Health Centers_©Shacc Gallery Construction

9. Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC) 

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Rendered image (2021)_©RCMC

Architects and Collaborators: Rizvi Hassan and Khwaja Fatmi, International Organization for Migration (IOM), RCMC
Year: 2020-21
Location: Cox’s Bazar
Materials: Bamboo and Local materials

To preserve cultural knowledge, traditions, and practices, the idea of the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC), a communal space and digital gallery was initiated. The common notion of the Rohingya as impoverished, simple locals who lack art or a developed material culture is misleading. Handwoven baskets, fishing devices, embroidery skills, pottery, and paintings are among the artifacts produced skillfully by Rohingya refugees. But the skill is not being transferred from generation to generation due to lack of facilities and dispersed living conditions. 

The idea here is to ensure that the artisans are paid for their services and therefore preserve original traditions. Displays of the handmade intricate elements and other intangible forms of wisdom and storytelling will comprise the Center, locally named Rosomor Biddya Ghor (the School of Culture). 

While the artisans are unable to sell their work on the open market due to protocols, there are strategies to organize an international touring display. A physical center to hold the collection is being designed using vernacular design concepts which will portray their story through a great variety of cultural artifacts and artworks created and gathered by Rohingya refugee artisans in the camps.

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Aerial View_©RCMC
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©RCMC
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Study models and Sketches_©RCMC

References:

Abdel, H. (2020, March 15). Integrated Community Center in Hindu-para Rohingya Refugee Camp. ArchDaily. [online]. Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/935461/integrated-community-center-in-hindu-pararohingya-refugee-camp-rizvi-hassan/> [Accessed 13/11/21].

Abdel, H. (2020b, September 30). Ukhia Schools / Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA. ArchDaily. [online]. Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/948699/ukhia-schools-kashef-chowdhury-urbana/> [Accessed 13/11/21].

Context. (2018, November 13). Child Learning Center at Thaingkhali Rohingya Camp. [online]. Available at: <https://contextbd.com/child-learning-center-thaingkhali-rohingya-camp/> [Accessed 13/11/21].

Fatmi, K. (2019). Aloon Lar Shay Pha la: Come and see us. ARCHIDIARIES. [online]. Available at: <https://www.archidiaries.com/aloon-lar-shay-pha-la-come-and-see-us-khwaja-fatmi/> [Accessed 13/11/21].

Williams, A. (2020, May 22). Refugee community center made from bamboo and straw. New Atlas. [online]. Available at: <https://newatlas.com/architecture/beyond-survival-bamboo-community-center/ [Accessed 14/11/21].

Author

A final year student currently pursuing B.Arch. in Bangladesh. Her passions are intertwined with Art, Travel, Architecture, and Literature. She aspires to travel, learn, evolve with time and thereby bring something to light through journaling her journeys.

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