Accepted paper:

Shaping well-being? Merging anthropological and architectural perspectives on asylum-seeker reception centers in Norway


Anne Sigfrid Grønseth (Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer)
Eli Støa

Paper short abstract:

Exploring asylum-seekers living conditions in Norway, we see a need to combine anthropological and architectural perspectives to recognise how aesthetic and spatial production create a kind of understanding about self and others, while addressing the need to reconsider architectural solutions.

Paper long abstract:

This paper takes an interdisciplinary approach that combines anthropological and architectural perspectives in exploring the living conditions offered at the asylum-seeker reception centers in Norway. The study conducts short-time field visits to selected reception centres focusing on participant observations, informal talks and in-depth interviews with asylum-seekers and staff together with photographic documentation of aesthetic and spatial features, combined with a web-survey. From our combined approaches we acknowledge that spaces and buildings can create distinctions and define “others” from us. Thus, we recognise and explore how the processes of ‘otherising’ are not only mental processes, but also spatial processes. Holding that built environment is more or less isomorphic with the social system that is developed within it, we address how spaces, borders, thresholds, spatial layout, aesthetics, outdoor areas and location influence the way we include/exclude and create “others” similar and different from our selves. We suggest that the asylum-reception centers as aesthetic and spatial production create and re-create a certain kind of understanding and images about self and others; both among asylum-seekers and the majority population. From such analyses, the project seeks to demonstrate the importance of understanding the specific situation of people living in an insti-tution-like home, to be able to meet their needs through architectural solutions and create appropriate home-environments. Furthermore the project aims to make a book-let that offer inspiration and advice on a conceptual level of asylum home design with focus on the residents’ well-being.

panel P06
Symbiotic anthropologies: new disciplinary relationships in an age of austerity