Interior Design Students Win 2023 IDEC Student Design Competition
Two Interior Design students from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) brought home the top prize in the 2023 Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) Student Design Competition. Deja Carter’s and Sam Kubiak’s sensitive, imaginative take on Syrian refugee housing won over this year’s judges with their “Yeni Bir Hyat” (translated to English as “A New Life”) concept.
The theme of this year’s conference was Migration and Refuge. Students were challenged to design a temporary sheltered environment for refugees to feel safe and psychologically sound, using no more than 50 square meters. In addition to providing a safe place to eat and sleep, they were asked to consider that refugees might be carrying suitcases or backpacks and that all structures could be built with locally available materials and objects. The proposed project could be set anywhere the world, in either the current day or the near future.
Rendering of the courtyard of Yeni Bir Hyat
For Yeni Bir Hyat, Carter and Kubiak chose to focus on teenaged Syrian refugees in Turkey, where over 50,000 people live in temporary housing. Fleeing civil war, severe winters, and catastrophic floods, many Syrians have fled to nearby Turkey, which shares a border and the Sunni Arab culture with their home country. While the site of the refugee camps is safely removed from the war, people living there are still dealing with trauma and the challenges of severe weather.
Mary Ellen Fritz, Interior Design Program Chair and Associate Professor of Interior Design at KCAD, says the contest’s challenge was a perfect opportunity for students to build on the trauma-informed design concepts they studied in class. "We know that individuals who’ve experienced trauma from an event or set of circumstances that is physically or emotionally harmful (or life threatening) have lasting adverse effects on their mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being,” she says. “Trauma-informed design theory teaches us that using deliberate design strategies in the physical environment can facilitate healing and growth.”
Carter and Kubiak’s solution featured a campus with multiple, two-person living spaces. The first floor offers a small kitchenette and dining area, an accessible sleeping space, and a room for prayer and meditation to support the cultural practices of Islamic refugees. To make the most of the small footprint, they placed a second sleeping space in a loft above the prayer room.
Rendering of the sleeping/living area of Yeni Bir Hyat
With these necessities met, they also considered how trauma-informed design could shape their concept. They incorporated privacy tapestries to separate spaces for privacy, planned lockable exterior doors and interior storage to help occupants feel secure, and used natural lighting and other biophilic elements to help people feel connected to nature—an approach that promotes wellness by harmonizing with the way humans evolved.
To boost overall moral, the students also showcased colors, materials, and patterns recognized in both Turkey and Syria. They chose native cedar paired with traditional adobe to insulate and cool interior spaces. Volcanic stone, which is abundant in the area, was used for insulation, and locally sourced tiles were chosen to create aesthetically pleasing mosaics familiar to both Syrian and Turkish peoples. A color palette of natural tones evokes culturally understood symbols of strength, fertility, wealth, healing, and comfort.
Rendering of the kitchnette area of Yeni Bir Hyat
The students’ concept also balances refugees’ social needs for privacy and community. Individual homes surround a central courtyard where residents can gather, an enduring architectural feature of the Middle East. By adding plantings of local Turkish flora such as lavender, maple, and fig trees and other traditional Syrian plants, the students transformed the courtyard into a pleasant, relaxing area where people could connect, charge, and celebrate, even in the midst of their displaced lives.
Fritz says the students’ project was particularly thoughtful of refugees’ needs. “Providing a safe shelter that meets all basic needs and incorporates regional materials, colors, and patterns makes Deja and Sam’s solution feel familiar and welcoming--not institutional,” she explains. “Remarkably, the 50 square meter space offers the users choices like zones to eat, sleep, gather, and worship that help establish some sense of control over their lives. And creating a shelter that is beautiful and supports cultural identity helps the healing that refugees who've experienced traumas need to regain strength."
The finalists were selected in March 2023, and student posters were displayed at the 2023 IDEC Annual Conference.
Project overview of Yeni Bir Hyat