GHETTO: a hypothetical integration of refugees into Venice
The theoretical architectural project GHETTO by Henriquez Partners Architects, proposes the provision of housing for refugees funded through a condominium timeshare model. The intention is to illustrate the power of the role of the architect in the creation of inclusive cities. The specific goal is to share a framework which leverages the power of the development community to provide social benefit to others who have less.
GHETTO by Henriquez Partners Architects, imagines a physical conduit for the redistribution of wealth from tourists to refugees by transferring the equity garnered in the development process in a mutually beneficial manner. While this project explores one iteration of this redistribution model, it can be applied across a variety of geographies, scales and contexts to provide a myriad of social benefits.
Through the project, Henriquez Partners, in collaboration with the UNHCR, aspires to spark meaningful dialogue about the issues affecting all cities and our collective obligation to create inclusive and engaged communities where all are welcome and belong.
How the project started
The inspiration for the project came from the site of the European Cultural Centre exhibition in Palazzo Mora located in Cannaregio, home of the Jewish ghetto, and Henriquez Partners’ desire to illustrate their studio’s credo that architecture has the potential to be a poetic expression of social justice. In the 16th century, an influx of Jewish arrivals into Venice led to a civic response that forced the Jews into mandatory, segregated living quarters, which became the first ghetto in history. Henriquez Partners’ project considers a related, contemporary situation within the global refugee crisis but searches for an inclusive model of development. If the role of the architect is to transcend that of a mere consultant for hire, then as true professionals, we share together a duty to identify and facilitate opportunities for achieving social good.
Considering our current global refugee crisis and the serious urban issues that all major cities are and will be confronting after COVID-19, Henriquez Partners’ exhibit explores the leadership role of the architect in inclusive city building that is financially viable and encourages the values of inclusivity, diversity, and social justice in the creation of places where we all belong.
Approaches to the contemporary refugee crises must encourage inclusivity, cultural resiliency, identity, and dignity without ghettoization.
GHETTO intends to promote Citizen Cities. The vision of a Citizen City is one that transcends the traditional urban goals of economic stability and working infrastructure, and allows for inclusivity of its people with a variety of economic levels, different cultures, and diverse identities. A Citizen City also provides and encourages open access to democratic and civic engagement, and develops cultural facilities and promotes cultural identity, thus enhancing a sense of community. Diversity, inclusivity, and civic engagement represent the true “richness” of an urban center and can provide the basis for cultural sustainability: this is a Citizen City.
The cost of each living unit provides equal access to shared amenities between tourists and refugees as well as amenities purposed specifically for either the tourist or the refugee.
The development model explores how the role of the architect can assist in bringing awareness to global citizens to feel responsible for caring for one another. To capture the equity potential created through the real estate development process, the 2,000-unit development provides 1,000 total units for refugees and 1,000 total units for American tourists fully funded by the tourist time share model over four different island sites. These four sites were selected to provide a sufficient number of both timeshare and refugee housing units to create a revenue neutral financial model.
Each of these sites is metaphorically associated with one of the key citizens in the making of the development: the Ghetto Nuovo with the civic official, Piazza San Marco with the tourist, the Stazione with the refugee, and the Arsenale with the architect.
GHETTO: Sanctuary for Sale graphic novel
The book is part of Henriquez Partners Architects’ exhibition at the European Cultural Center at Palazzo Mora during the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale. In collaboration with the UNHCR, Henriquez Partners Architects proposes GHETTO: Sanctuary for Sale, which includes within it a twofold narrative and architectural manifesto while positing the question, “What does it mean to be a citizen?”. Two graphic novel narratives, written from both the perspective of the tourist and the refugee, describe how each individual may become a citizen of the collective world community.
The book illustrates how the innovative timeshare-refugee housing model inherently supports the potential to change the world view to encourage inclusivity. Demonstrating the studio’s credo in this theoretical project, Henriquez Partners Architects aims to elicit meaningful discussions concerning models of architectural practice that enable diverse cultural landscapes to thrive and promote social good on the tiny planet we call home. GHETTO can be purchased on Amazon.
The Henriquez Partners Architects team created two videos that bring an extract from the novel to life. One video narrates the story from the prospective of an American family coming to Venice for vacation, whereas the other describes the experience from the point of view of a family of refugees coming to GHETTO to escape their country.