Ownership and Sense of Belonging for the Displaced: Integrating Somali Refugees into Wellington City
Having a sense of belonging to a place is important for everyone adapting to a new environment but especially more so for displaced refugees. This is important for raising confidence and self worth which gives refugees a better chance to understand and connect to the surrounding culture and immediate environment. Somali refugees first arrived in New Zealand as asylum seekers. They are discussed specifically in this thesis with relation to the issue of discrimination, methods of integration and its issues such as social depravation. As an ethnic group, the Somali refugees are very distinct in their culture and religious belief thus facing more challenges in the process of integration compared to other refugee communities. This situation is not further aided as they live on the peripheries of the city, in this case, central Wellington city and its outskirts, which impedes the chance of exchange between their culture and other cultures that inform this multi-cultural city. The central city represents a central cultural hub where culture is exchanged through a variety of trade predominantly through food and the arts and crafts. This research explores the importance of providing spaces within the commercial centre for the social and economic value for the Somali refugees that could play a big part in their integration process. The thesis discusses the history of the Somalis, methods of integration and social depravation, precedents of successful spaces for cultural expression, concluding with the final design proposal discussions and conclusion. As the thesis explores the prospect of giving ownership to the Somali refugees in Wellington city the design component of the thesis focuses on architectural interventions that would facilitate and support cultural integration. The study explores the personalisation of an existing inner city built space and the use for functional needs as a first step for the Somalis to partake in economic and cultural exchange, understanding and eventually through such means develop a sense of belonging.