Architecture students design with refugees in mind

UB graduate architecture student, Ghalia Ajouz

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A group of graduate students at UB are putting their skills to the test, and proving why Buffalo is called the city of good neighbors.

They’re drafting up designs for old and abandoned buildings, and creating blue prints for them to be redeveloped into refugee housing. The project is focusing on the city’s east side, because of the area’s rich tradition of immigration.

The project hits close to home for Prof. Erkin Ozay, who studied urban planning and refugee resettlement in his home country of Turkey.

“I saw first hand how drastically Istanbul got transformed and unfortunately there isn’t a good, concrete resettlement program. So I moved to Buffalo just about two years ago, I was really, really impressed by what kind of work is being done and how welcoming the city has been for the refugees, so what we wanted to do was to contribute to that even more,” Prof. Ozay told News 4.

The students worked with local agencies and non-profits to get a sense of housing needs for new refugees. Then, they went to work, designing and scaling how abandoned buildings could be rehabbed into temporary and long term housing options.

“What we’re trying to do is to show that when you bring refugees in, they revitalize the neighborhood. So we’re trying to have a community garden, community kitchen, community daycare,” said third year student Ghalia Ajouz, who is designing shared housing at the old Duffy Silk Mill on Broadway Street.

The project is a research and design exercise, no firm has signed on to make the designs a reality yet, but Ozay feels his students’ work is opening up an important conversation.

“The impetuous for the project actually came from the need to think about the idea of resettlement at a urban scale.”

He said that means thinking beyond just space, but affordability, location, and how new members could improve existing communities.

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