A slightly better shelter?
On January 26, 2017, the IKEA refugee shelter was declared the worldwide Design of the Year in a unanimous decision. When I interviewed one of the jurors about the process I was told that they’d chosen the “obvious winner”: the IKEA shelter was high profile, it had featured widely in the media, it was a positive story with a clear social purpose, and it offered a practical solution to the so-called “refugee crisis,” one of the most significant issues of the previous twelve months. The London Design Museum has been awarding the “Design of the Year” for a decade now, celebrating examples that “promote or deliver change, enable access, extend design practice, or capture the spirit of the year” (Beazley 2017). The IKEA refugee shelter seemed to match all of these aims, claiming to be modular, sustainable, long lasting, recyclable, easily assembled, affordable, and scalable. It was installed on the Greek islands to shelter newly arrived refugees in 2015, and it came with the backing of the United Nations (UN) Refugee Agency, who purchased 15,000 units for distribution around the world.