Thomas Schaperkotter

MArch I

Displace-Making: A Center for the Rohingya Women and Adolescent Empowerment Association

Advised by Toshiko Mori and Rahul Mehrotra

The unprecedented present of this century’s refugee crisis is also unmistakably a crisis of refuge. This crisis manifests in spontaneously built environments of perceived ephemerality, which fail to account for the protracted reality of displacement. Nowhere is this truer than in Kutupalong, today’s largest aggregation of camps. Located in the Ukhiya and Teknaf regions of Bangladesh, these camps host registered refugees as well as a stateless Rohingya diaspora from Myanmar. 

Following months of collaborative fieldwork with a self-employed women’s association in the camp, this thesis project proposes incremental architectural interventions to their existing structure and site in response to their extended tenure and entrepreneurial agency. The current center, built on a hilltop by members of the community, provides this group with their sole ability to congregate and earn a living for their families. As their homegrown movement evolves, the existing facility requires retooling to envision new programmatic possibilities that extend the breadth of their craft. 

The process of expansion leverages local resources and the demonstrated ingenuity of the community. The evolution is studied through alterations and additions to the existing bamboo structure as well as the modification of the landscape into earthen infrastructure. These proposals seek convergences between material capacities and configurations, the climatic forces innate to the hilltop site, and spatial logics to best serve the women and their aspirations. The design of the center, and its impact upon the surrounding residential fabric, is developed in stages to explore the gradual cultivation of settlement in a space of refuge. 

Thomas Schaperkotter, MArch I. 
A physical model of an existing women’s center.
Thomas Schaperkotter, MArch I. 
Phased plan for a new, proposed women’s center and textile studio.
Thomas Schaperkotter, MArch I. 
Isometric drawing showing components and courtyard of the women’s center.
Thomas Schaperkotter, MArch I. 
Perspective view of the women’s center from the adjacent footpath.
Thomas Schaperkotter, MArch I. 
Cross section of the women’s center showing the textile work.