This autumn, Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter will bring together examples of art, architecture and design works at a range of scales, which all focus on the topical subject of forced displacement.
United Nations figures suggest that 67.2 million individuals worldwide are currently refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced.
“Where borders once marked the peripheries of nations, today, manifold territories on sea and land have blurred one’s potential confinement within spaces that are determined by external powers,” said a statement from the museum. “Under these conditions, shelter has been redefined through constant movement or escape.”
“The prevalence of shelters and refugee camps calls into question the ‘safety’ that they represent,” it added.
The refugee crisis has become an increasingly important topic for architects and designers as the situation has worsened over the past few years. A multitude of proposals for nonpermanent shelters have been unveiled, including rapidly deployable hexagonal dwellings and adaptable shelter systems.
Dutch organisation What Design Can Do (WDCD) has also launched a Refugee Challenge to encourage designers to submit ideas to help the crisis.
However, humanitarian-aid expert Kilian Kleinschmidt said that governments should stop thinking about refugee camps – such as the settlements at France’s Calais and Tempelhof Airport in Berlin – as temporary places in a recent interview with Dezeen.
“Refugee camps, while once considered to be temporary, are no longer so, and have become a locus through which to examine how human rights intersect with and complicate the making of cities,” said MoMA, echoing Kleinschmidt’s comments.
Not all believe that the crisis can simply be solved by design. In a recent Opinion piece, Ruben Pater said that initiatives like the Refugee Challenge encourage designers to believe that they can solve international problems that go far beyond their reach. WDCD founder Richard Van Der Laken responded by assuring that even the smallest intervention could help improve the conditions.
MoMA’s exhibition aims to examine these conflicting ideas. Items in the show will include Ikea and UNHCR’s Better Shelter modular emergency structure, which has been described by design critic Alice Rawsthorn as “unusually sensitive and intelligent”.
Works by Estudio Teddy Cruz, Henk Wildschut, Tiffany Chung will be among others on display.
“Insecurities raises questions regarding how the design and representation of shelter as a source of security and stability ultimately reflects how refugees are living in permanent upheaval today,” said MoMA.
The exhibition will be on show from 1 October 2016 to 22 January 2017 at MoMA, located on West 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan.
Last month, the museum was forced to refute claims that it was abolishing its architecture and design galleries after reports speculated that the spaces would not reopen after the museum’s ongoing expansion and refurbishment.
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