Book Review – From Shelters To Dwelling:

The Zaatari Refugee Camp by Ayham Dalal, 2022

Layla Zibar

Published in Issue 5.1 // Updates

Keywords: Refugee camps, spatial agency, humanitarian architecture, Syria, Jordan


Ayham Dalal offers us a spatial repertoire on the radicality of the ‘housing’ question regarding refugees and their built environments. By focusing on the ‘tension between the shelter and the dwelling’, this book offers an exceptional reading of the imposed temporary materiality of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Dalal introduces ‘dwelling’ as a spatial practice, highlighting refugees’ spatial agency in resisting and subverting the idea of liminality and, as Malaki (1992) proposes, falling outside the ‘natural order of things’. Through detailed case studies and visual representation, this book brings to the fore the dismantling and reassembling of given temporary structures to describe Syrian refugees’ spatial agency in transforming the tent-furnished desert into ‘the third largest city in Jordan’.

Layla Zibar is a postdoctoral researcher at the department of architecture at KU Leuven University (BE) working in the fields of forced migration, (post)conflict reconstruction and urbanism. Her academic and professional interests over the years aim to comprehend and unfold the interrelations between crises, forced displacements, urbanization processes, homing and lived experiences.

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