On 22 June, Carmen Mendoza, the assistant director of International Relations at the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, took part in the Design for Humanity Summit in New York’s emblematic Lincoln Center. This international summit was co-organised by Fordham University’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs, the UN Migration Agency and the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations. During the event, prominent designers and humanitarians explored the intersection between design and humanitarian action in an effort to provide a crisis response to contemporary humanitarian challenges.
Carmen Mendoza took part in the panel entitled “From Public Interest Design to Humanitarian Design: How Design Compels an Inclusive Humanitarian Response”. In her talk, she emphasised the need to do away with refugee camp design, as, according to the lecturer, “the only thing [these camps] accomplish is to keep refugees in a state of emergency that, unfortunately, becomes permanent”. With a view to mitigating this reality, Carmen Mendoza proposed finding alternative physical and social measures to integrate refugees within cities.
In addition, the assistant director of International Relations argued that interdisciplinarity should be a vital element in the education of architects working in emergency contexts in the area of physical transformation, from an architectural to an urban scale. “Professionals interested in working in this highly complex field should be able to apply a systematic approach and have knowledge of the humanitarian system, political limitations, spatial identity and social and cultural dynamics”, she pointed out.
Other panel participants included Marie Aquilino and Sergio Palleroni, both former lecturers in the Master’s Degree in International Cooperation: Sustainable Emergency Architecture, which Carmen Mendoza directs at the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture.
As chance would have it, among the organisers of this international conference was former master’s student Alberto Preato, currently the manager of the International Organisation for Migration of the UN Migration Agency. Preato boasts extensive experience as an expert in humanitarian response to natural disasters and has worked in the field in settlements in numerous countries, including Mozambique, Colombia, Haiti and Honduras.