Research Output
Architecture of emergencies in the Middle East: Proposed shelter design criteria
  The number of displaced individuals has been significantly increasing globally during the past decade, reaching over 68 million by end of 2017. The Syrian conflict in the Middle East has attracted more attention to refugee issues, specifically in relation to large forced displacement. While refugee camps are generally considered temporary, reviews of previous case studies feature longer stay periods and permanency. In the sector of humanitarian architecture, specifically in post-disaster sheltering studies, various organisations, academics, and designers have been trying to solve the sheltering issues by proposing shelter designs, but they remain unresolved. Therefore, there has been a need to review and change the design approach.

The main aim of this research is to introduce transitional shelter design criteria for the Middle East, with a sub-aim of applying the criteria into a proposed design. The main aim was achieved through investigating the current sheltering challenges faced by refugees in the Middle East, exploring the extent of sheltering variables given to refugees around the world, identifying the required design elements based on culture and context, and reviewing the existing shelter guidelines. However, the sub-aim was fulfilled through a trial and error method based on the proposed criteria.

This study adopts a grounded theory methodology, where several field visits were conducted to Syrian refugee camps in Jordan (namely Zaatari and Azraq); using focus group discussions, observatory tours, and participatory design sessions as data collection methods. In addition, existing documents concerning the shelter standards and existing shelters have been used as a fourth data collection method. The gathered data has led to a recommended set of guidelines, which formed the shelter design criteria, and thereby, the proposed design outline.

Culture and context are two elements that have been found to be integral factors in shaping the design preferences of the shelter users. Moreover, the flexibility of the shelter design is found in this research to be fundamental in addressing large-scale shelter design responses. On this basis, it is recommended to have shelter design criteria and a primary, yet flexible, core design for each geographic region - which could be adopted and adapted in cases of disaster. This procedure will not only lead to a better sheltering response but could also save time, which is a crucial element in emergency situations.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    04 July 2019

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    TH Building construction

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    690 Buildings

  • Funders:

    Mutah University


Alshawawreh, L. Architecture of emergencies in the Middle East: Proposed shelter design criteria. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



shelter design; humanitarian architecture; refugee camps; Jordan; Zaatari; Azraq; case studies

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