Designed by Italy’s ABVM Studio with input from the migrant community, the Maidan Tent is an easy-to-install gathering space currently being piloted in the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece.
When they first set out to design the Maidan Tent, Italian architects Bonaventura Visconti di Modrone and Leo Bettini Oberkalmsteiner (ABVM Studio) wanted to create something like a piazza – a gathering space welcome to all. They had been studying the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece, where hundreds of war-displaced Syrians and Iraqis are living, and saw that there was a need for a place of culture, a place to provide emotional and psychological release, where the migrant families could “share, chat, pray and eat meals.”
Two years after their initial proposal – and after multiple studies, visits with the camp population, and meetings with non‐governmental organizations and public and private bodies (including Arup Community Engagement, a non‐profit specialist section of Arup) – the first Maidan Tent has gone up in Ritsona. It is sponsored by the International Organization for Migration, an agency associated with the United Nations.
The Maidan Tent is simple yet effective. It’s an inflatable textile pavilion measuring 200 square metres and shaped like a blooming flower, its eight petals forming semi-private spaces and welcoming openings that are accessible from all directions. Inside, an inner circle forms an open public meeting place. Supported by an aluminum and steel framework, the tent features a four-metre-high oculus at its centre to usher in ventilation and natural light. The easily deployable and collapsible piazza could be erected on any site and accommodate 300 people at one time.
The designers interacted with the community to determine the tent’s possible uses and to elect a group of refugees with whom to consult on design. And that collaboration continues.
As Visconti di Modrone explains, “The project grew out of an idea that we are sure can improve the lives of the residents, but we want them, in their own time, to appropriate it and make it ever livelier. By observing and seeking advice and comments, we are convinced that we can improve the project and make it more effective.”
So far, the tent has hosted videos of World Cup football matches and films in various languages. Ideas for future uses include a fruit and vegetable market “where local Greek producers can sell their products within the camp, in an attempt, among other things, to overcome the residents’ isolation,” says di Modrone.
The project also speaks to the integrity of temporary architecture. As Bettini Oberkalmsteiner says, “A fluid architecture is one that implies flexibility in all processes from assembly to use, from the necessary to the creative, from the indispensable to the minimum for survival.”