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Project type //

PhD research

attached website

Location // 

Kiziba, Kigeme and Mugombwa refugee camps in Rwanda; Kyangwali, Kyaka II and Nakivale refugee camps in Uganda; Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

Team/Stakeholders //

Nerea Amoros Elorduy - Principal Investigator 

Research Assistants

Refugee parents, caregivers and children 


African Design Centre

UCL Bartlett conference and projects fund

BAICE travelling scholarship

La Caixa Fellowship


Around 66 long-term refugee camps, hosting some 1.5 million people, existed in 2016 along the East African Rift. The humanitarian assistance destined for them is dwindling, affected by donor fatigue and new pressing emergencies in other geographies. This impacts on the life of the encamped and their neighbours on many levels. From 2011 onwards, donors and camp managers have begun to focus attention and invest funds into centralised education facilities for the many three to six-year-olds who live in encampment. 


This research investigated the relationship between the built environment of the long-term refugee camps in the East African Rift and the learning processes of the young children who are born and raised there. The aim of this research by architectural design was fourfold: to test architecture as a tool to produce novel data on the cases studied by including local voices; to understand the extent to which encamped children learn from the spaces they inhabit; to understand which actors create and modify such spaces; and, finally, to explore architectural strategies for improving the camps’ learning environments. 


I used a multi-method qualitative approach. I mapped and examined the built environment of seven camps in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, tracing the causes and ramifications of their spatiotemporal variation. I collected and analysed the perceptions of children, parents, caregivers, and NGO members regarding the camps built environments as a learning source. Lastly, I co-developed design speculations for two Rwandan camps with local refugees and architecture students.

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