RhizHome_City of Tomorrow

Year: 2018

Competition: Project Earth 2.0_City of Tomorrow

Where: Everywhere

Team:  Federico Caserta, Francesco Casini, Fiamma Ficcadenti, Gianmarco Lucarini

What: New Vision for Refugee’s Settlements


Refugee camps are settlements usually located in isolated areas on the physical and cultural margins of the world: places of abandonment. They are impressive devices growing at inconceivable rhythm; they are “instant” and “sudden” cities due to their unpredictable and “definitively temporary” nature.

In the making of refugee camps, thus far the Cartesian grid of blocks and streets have been the only strategy put in place, as it perfectly guarantees security standards and accessibility. In this approach, the architectural aspects of the camp have been neglected, such as quality of the space, green areas, and public areas. The grid leads to the alienating repetition of the same module for thousands of times, making it extremely hard to orient and find your own home (tent).

Landmarks, hotspots, architectural variability and the possibility for the inhabitants to build their own places, are the elements that transform a settlement into a city.

The camp has always been a human, political and spatial “space of exception”, according to Agamben’s definition. So how can we give back to the refugees the level of dignity that frees them from the eternal limbo of their “exceptional” transition?

Refugees are “bare life” that resists, roots with no land. Despite their condition, they carry with them the seed for a potential rebirth through which they can re-establish their existence as men and collectives.

In order for them to feel home, it is necessary to provide the soil where they can plant this seed and make it sprout.

In botany, rhizome is that part of the plant that makes it reproduce even under unfavorable conditions: a concentrate of resilient existence. Starting from this metaphor, the camp starts to take form as a new vital city. Starting from the theoretical approach of Deleuze and Guattari, a rhizomatic space is based on both heterogeneity of the elements and hyper connections between places and people.

The new rhizomatic city is acentric and therefore it has no border either. If there is no center there is no periphery, no inside nor outside: only co-existence of space. In fact, the perimeter walls of the field are deconstructed physically and symbolically through a “buffer space” that, with a gradient of public and collective functions, mediates the passage from existing context to new settlement, fostering integration between host community and refugees.

Given these characteristics, the settlement is capable to contract or expand according to its needs thanks to the redundancy of the main formal and technologic elements: the settlement presents no main pole as it is conceived as a non-hierarchical net.



Our design allows to build a City with ease, short timing and economical sustainability. The idea is to aknowledge the economic and social potentials of building a refugee camp along the main axis connecting two cities or even in peripheric areas of the cities in lack of services.

We intend to promote a social and cultural integration of the refugees by building public spaces and services that can serve both settlement and city. The refugee camp becomes a device for the revitalization of urban areas in need of services and better infrastructures.

We firmly believe that any social integration must pass through spatial integration first. Imagining the settlement as the city of the future, we propose technologic strategies that make it completely eco-sustainable. The settlement is not only energetically self-sufficient, it also produces additional energy that is delivered to the city net.

Private companies, industries, and factories are pushed to move their activity in proper sheds in the settlement as they wouldn’t pay for rents or electricity (taken from the net), thus bringing market and private investments in the camp, creating job opportunities, stimulating integration, and making the settlement grow.

From the spatial point of view, the settlement thus conceived is already a City, since the design is presented as a project of relations that express urban quality rather than the design of “singular objects”. In this way, the city of the future – whatever shape it will have – will be able to build and reproduce itself starting from the camp even in different forms, yet counting on the original traces left by the form of the camp.