Nomads in Noman’s Land

Geopolitical boundaries define us as statist territorialized beings. Abandoning the state territory is a breach of the social contract. Fragile political states may cause displacement of populations, when these are forced to cross physical borders for political, economical, social, or environmental reasons. There are 42 million displaced persons in the world. The United Nations Refugee Agency strives for voluntary repatriation to a home country, resettlement in another country or permanent integration in the country of asylum.

The spatial result of the problematic political status of the refugee is manifested in reactive urbanism and temporary architectural solutions. The case of Burma, one of the largest source countries of displaced persons, was the topic of this thesis and was researched in a field study on its Thai border. Parallel to the 150000 official refugees residing in camps for over 25 years, there are another estimated 2 million unregistered Burmese illegally living and working in Thai factories in the porous border area.

The project proposes an extraterritorial settlement in the river that serves as a border between the two countries. The economic catalyst for such a settlement would be a garment factory housed in a parasitic bamboo structure suspended under the existing ‘friendship’ bridge. The urban layout on the riverbed is determined by sanitation units provided by NGOs. These concrete water towers cum bathhouses form a grid onto which makeshift houses can latch on, creating intimate courtyards.

About Frank Reitsma