In Northern Kurdistan, Iraq, the Yazidi people have fallen victim to genocide by ISIS since 2014. The Bersive 2 Camp for Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) is home to over 7,000 residents from this minority group, many of whom will likely never return to their former lives. While the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), various NGOs, and the Kurdistan Regional government have provided basic tents and material support, aside from schools, the camp was severely lacking in social infrastructure. Completed in August 2022, the Habibi Community Centre is set to change that. Led by Insitu Project, a research platform founded by Peter Hasdell and Kuo Jze Yi in 2015, and collaboratively designed and built, the shared space brings a vibrant new social hub to the camp.
The project was kickstarted and funded by two NGOs — HIS Foundation and Habibi International — with the goal to develop a functional community and health facility that would foster social cohesion, resilience, and pride. With expertise in health, rehabilitation, and counselling for displaced communities, the organizations, who had been working at Bersive 2 and other nearby camps for several years, now oversee the day-to-day operations.
Under the guidance of the two foundations, the project was conceived as a collective effort. Insitu Project led the overall scheme with help from ABCD Collaborative, while Superadobe construction experts Vide Terra were responsible for the community hall.
In total, the centre provides 350 square metres of healthcare and community facilities, arranged around a courtyard that serves as a safe recreation space, complete with a playground co-designed by Catalytic Action, a charity that harnesses participatory design to empower vulnerable children, youth and their communities.
On the more public side of the courtyard, a multi-purpose community hall anchors the complex, hosting both informal social gatherings and larger cultural events. Constructed with Superadobe, a method that utilizes earth-filled bags, the hall leverages low-tech solutions to passively regulate the microclimate — which ranges from snow in the winter to over 30 degrees Celsius in the summer — reducing the need for additional heating and cooling.
The locally sourced material not only helped to keep costs down but allowed for rapid construction using unskilled labour. Within a few days, Vide Terra trained locals on the technique, providing transferrable skills that can be used for future developments. Glass bottles collected by locals were cleverly utilized to design special windows for the hall, helping to establish principles of circularity and resource management.
The organic quality of the Superadobe structure sits in contrast with the rest of the camp, which is comprised of prefab containers, concrete blocks and tents. On three sides of the courtyard, these containers host a series of healthcare amenities, which include dental care, surgical rehabilitation, prosthetics, physiotherapy, and trauma counselling. Similar structures house additional facilities for childcare, women’s groups, education and language learning.
While IDP camps are not intended to be permanent, the reality is that they have become established villages, and they require the appropriate infrastructure to function as such. As the first non-transitional, non-temporary building in the camp, the Habibi Community Centre addresses this fact. The award-winning project has piqued the interest of the UNHCR and other NGOs: In nearby camps, a prototype Superadobe dwelling has been constructed with community participation, and another community centre is already underway. Prioritizing functional amenities and placemaking in equal measure, the project offers a guide to desining dignified living spaces in IDP camps.
At the Bersive 2 IDP Camp, Insitu Project, ABCD Collaborative, Vide Terra and MedEast design much-needed social infrastructure — and foster a sense of place.