I have made some minor change to my abstract based on suggestions from others. I fear it is getting a little long now but I think the ideas are more focused now that the direction I want to take has been more established and I have done further research. The only real changes occur in the 4th and 5th paragraphs where I have re-introduced the idea of an "architecture of transition" and indicated that I will explore, albeit not as the focus of my thesis, the idea of re-housing migrants in homes around Malta. The "architecture of transition" phrase is really just a poncey archi-speak way of saying that the housing component of the project will need to be transitional because some migrants will be leaving and some arriving. This will necessitate a type of housing that can adapt to fluctuating numbers of residents and I think that self-building might be able to address this nicely. I will give some examples of how self-building has been used in this way in a subsequent post.
In the latest draft, I also wanted to suggest this idea that the architecture could encourage social interactions between Maltese citizens and migrants. The lack of such interactions has been cited (JRS 2010) as one of the major obstacles to migrants establishing connections in society that might help them to find jobs in their field. Encouraging a mixture of cultures would have the added benefit of breaking down the barriers between the Centre and the community and reducing the negative perception of the "other" in the minds of the Maltese. How could the architecture do this? I believe that by establishing positive public spaces such as a marketplace and library with areas where both planned and spontaneous meetings between migrants and Maltese would be allowed to occur could start to achieve this goal.
JRS Europe. Living in Limbo: Forced Migrant Destitution in Europe. JRS Europe, 2010. Available online at http://www.jrseurope.org/news_releases/ANDES%20report2010.htm Accessed 7 November 2010.
Abstract (3rd draft):
Since 2001, more than 12 500 illegal migrants have arrived in Malta, the vast majority in small boats crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. In a country with a population of around 413 000 and the highest population density in the EU, this has placed enormous pressure on Malta. The rush to provide temporary housing for the migrants, who have very few opportunities for employment and financial self-sufficiency in Malta, has resulted in inadequate, overcrowded accommodation and crippling social isolation. Unwanted by a country in which they arrived by accident, their status uncertain, the migrants exist in a frustrating state of social, political, and financial limbo.
The Marsa Open Centre is the largest facility in Malta that provides free housing to migrants. A converted industrial trade school in severely polluted port-lands on the Grand Harbour, the Centre was designed to house around 600 people but on any given day it is home to over 1000. The process of ghettoization in the area surrounding the Centre has already begun and it is perceived as a “no go zone” by many Maltese. Given the current reduced rate of illegal migration to Malta, the Centre is expected to be required for another 5-10 years in its current capacity. However, there will always be a need for “emergency” housing for a number of vulnerable asylum seekers in Malta.
The goal of this thesis project will be to transform the Marsa Open Centre into a healthy, inhabitable place for migrants in need of temporary housing as well as establish positive connections between the Centre and the surrounding community. The Centre will embody the importance of providing space for expressions of individuality and cultural identity while at the same time finding ways to encourage integration both inside and outside.
The Centre will be re-imagined through an “architecture of transition” as some migrants are gradually re-housed in urban areas of Malta and others arrive at the Centre. A sense of ownership and belonging will be encouraged through self-building techniques and living spaces that are highly adaptable to individual needs. The Centre itself will facilitate integration by providing some permanent spaces and services that can be shared by Maltese citizens and migrants alike such as a library, theatre, marketplace, and community centre. In these spaces, social interactions between cultures could occur, creating connections while reducing social isolation and prejudices. A health clinic and small business incubator will also be established in order to directly meet the unique needs of migrants.
The scope of the thesis will briefly speculate on a life beyond the Marsa Open Centre. Key areas where migrants could be re-housed and further establish their independence in society will be suggested and mapped.