Niko Hapa (I’m Still Here): Kenya Refugee Marketplace

In collaboration with Dima Almobarak

This operational plan leverages the innate abilities of the refugee population by acknowledging and utilizing their skills to design and make. The plan begins by identifying and assisting those with specific skill sets, and then supplying the raw materials and spaces necessary for the production and sale of their goods. The plan begins by working within the local economy of the neighborhood block, and then progressively expands to create economic and social connections with other local blocks, zones, and sectors. Craft abilities may be concentrated to develop skill sets in and among sectors.


The current situation is economically unsustainable because goods and resources only flow in one direction, largely supplied by the UNHCR. An equitable environment needs to be one in which production and consumption of goods are equally addressed. The plan develops a long-term economy by training residents in specific skills, and developing a global marketplace for their products.


The marketplace is a series of spaces for making, selling, learning and meeting. As a social hub, it is also designed as a central gathering place to facilitate these activities by gathering the local community around each block. The hub is located in the approximate center of a neighborhood block, and becomes the locus of neighborhood activities. Hubs in adjacent blocks develop sympathetic functions and larger connected activities, and these places may start to develop identities and reputations for their specific skill sets.


The form of the marketplace is presented as a square, enclosing a central gathering place for meeting, discussion, and communal tools and public events. The square is defined by a repetitive series of thick mud brick walls, each three meters apart, with a simple metal roof enclosing the collection of spaces. The interior space is divided between the exterior side for the selling of goods, and the interior side used for the production of goods. The structure and construction is designed to be simple and easily-constructed with local materials and tools. While the formal system is simple, it is also designed to be flexible, able to accommodate smaller or larger functions, while providing the essential intention of creating a central place for market, and other social, activities.