Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Identity Displacement: Architecture, Migration & the Islamic Woman

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posted on 2021-11-10, 21:47 authored by Gordon, Rebecca Claire

Architecture can be regarded as both a product of culture and a medium that can influence change in contemporary society. Within the context of the Islamic woman refugee, architecture becomes intrinsically associated with the concept of socio-cultural sustainability because her cultural identity is challenged through the process of migration. Socio-cultural sustainability within the migrant context is concerned with maintaining cultural identity while allowing for transformation associated with the migration process. Furthermore, it aims to limit negative conflicts between ethnic groups that are often associated with misperceptions based on a lack of understanding. This thesis aims to further understand the role that architecture could play in the socio-cultural sustainability of Islamic women refugees living in Wellington. These women are often forced to make significant cultural changes through their migration process, and are faced with the question of which parts of their identity they maintain and which parts they adapt to the local culture. Traditional Islamic gender roles are challenged through the process of migration; where the Islamic woman, who was traditionally found within the home, is now becoming part of the professional workforce. The contrasting Western and Islamic perceptions of the veil identify that there are large gaps in the understanding of the other.  Both the house and the mosque are two architectural typologies that play a significant part in the lives of Islamic women refugees, and therefore the design case study is divided into 2 parts. Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC), who is responsible for housing recently-arrived refugees, commonly place refugee migrants in state properties. These are unresponsive to the socio-cultural needs of most refugee migrants as they are generally designed for the New Zealand culture. Due to the limitations imposed on and by HNZC and the refugee housing process, the most feasible solution to this problem for the Islamic woman refugee is to provide Housing Design Guidelines for Islamic Women. They focus specifically on their socio-cultural needs and could be used in housing renovations and redevelopments by HNZC. The second and larger part of the design case studies concentrates on the redevelopment of the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington, which acts as an architectural symbol of Islamic identity. Unlike the house, it supports the wider concept of socio-cultural sustainability, which includes challenging the frequently negative perceptions towards the Islamic community. This is essential in fostering positive relationships between the migrant and the host community, which can significantly influence the re-settlement process of refugees. Traditional Islamic architecture is therefore critiqued in the design, through the concept of the veil and the contemporary position of the Islamic woman, in order to re-negotiate traditional perceptions.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


de Sylva, Shenuka