(IN)Formal Refuge

The Arrival City

(IN)FORMAL REFUGE: The Arrival City is a design and research project investigating urban settings hosting displaced communities.

As part of the Global project WHIT (Wellbeing, Housing and Infrastructure in Turkey) the scheme is aiming to define durable urban solutions for low-income and displaced communities of Izmir, Turkey.
︎ See introduction to (IN)Formal Refuge

Potographs of the Gecekondu of Izmir: Google Images 
Social life of the Gecekondu: Perin Çün 

The project’s site is Kadifkale, an area located in the central district of Izmir and home to the largest Gecekondu neighbourhood accommodating the highest population of migrants and refugees in the city.

The main characteristic of the Gecekondu is the self-built principle - people construct their homes over time in function of their own financial capacity and flow of arrival. 

Essential to the survival of the migrant communities is the network of shared streets, stairs, balconies and terraces found in the Gecekondu neighbourhood which supports the social life of the displaced. ︎

In 2008, 9 Gecekondu neighbourhoods were demolished by Izmir Municipality due to the landslide risk on site. Unofficially the demolition process was known as ‘the elimination of the urban tumour’, re-locating the migrant communities at the fringe of the city and divorcing them from any social and economic opportunities.

The Kadifekale site does not only present a landslide risk due to its elevation - 180 m above sea level - but it is also located in a high-risk seismic area. ︎


The proposal is for an Incremental Housing & Infrastructure scheme dedicated to the communities of Kadifekale. The design presents a self-build character and potential growth, integrates a rich network of shared spaces and responds to the environmental challenges of the original site.

The project is designed at 3 scales: Unit House, Cluster and Neighbourhood and is planned in 3 phases according to the arrival and resettlement process of the displaced community.
The structural principle follows the design intention: a FRAME for self-build housing which can be IN-FILLED with various programmes, customised and expanded by the resident over time based on his cultural preferences, financial capacity and social needs.

Construction starts with Phase 00:  Groundworks at a Cluster scale.

The Kadifekale site goes first through ground excavation and addition. Next, a system of retaining, contiguous and sheet pile walls secures the terrain.

By the end of Phase 00, the site is levelled through terracing and prepared for construction.
Phase 01 consists of the scheme's Base Construction.

The FRAME is built from Precast Concrete components delivered and installed on-site, the choice of the PC System is to support the economy of the scheme as well as its rapid erection.

The party bathroom and kitchen wall shared between two neighbouring dwellings support the economy of the project.

Following Phase 01 the FRAME of each Housing Unit is achieved and ready to be IN-FILLED.

Next are Phase 02 and 03 based on self-building lead and customised by the resident. 

The inhabitation of the FRAME starts at a minimum of 30 SQM able to accommodate a family of two people.

The first growth brings the house at 40 sqm - accommodating a family of four people.

The second growth brings the internal area to 55 sqm - hosting a family of up to six people by the planning of three bedrooms.

The FRAME aims to create not only a residential space but also an economic opportunity for the resident. In the first visualised example, a one-bedroom house and an artist studio on the ground floor.

Another case could be a family of four people owning a small coffee shop by making use of the communal areas.

Or a grocery shop on the ground floor owned by a family of four living on the first floor can be an additional example.

Beyond its residential and economic use, the proposed FRAME can also be IN-FILLED by public programs. In the last illustrated examples, a general practitioners office or a small Nursery.

The User Guide Manual defines the key rules of inhabitation, customisation and growth. The aim of the Manual is to ensure a long term sustainable occupancy and growth of a housing cluster.

The document presents a set of options the resident can integrate with his own home. Chapter I is concerned with potential spatial layouts of the Housing Unit.

Rules for the Horizontal and Vertical Growth of a Housing Unit are defined in Chapter II.

Chapter III l is concerned with maintenance rules of the communal areas.

Chapter IV is defining the potential material library of the IN-FILL. Residents are presented with various typologies of flexible walls and openings.

The landscaping plan takes into account Izmir’s Municipality planting scheme for the Afforestation Project of Kadifekale. Areas for gardening, planting methods and species are suggested in Chapter V.

The FRAME can sustain different IN-FILLS and plug-in programmes. The governance of the area relies on its type: varying from the private space of the Housing Unit to the public one of the stairs and balconies.

The primary use of the Cluster is defined as residential followed by community use areas. Overall 30% of the scheme is designated for growth and adaptability.

The Cluster scheme consisting of 16 Housing Units is illustrated in Phase 03 at maximum occupancy. As the IN-FILL is customisable by the resident, the following spatial layouts can vary.

The Ground Floor accommodates 4 Housing units 2 of which are containing small businesses.

The first and second floors are dedicated entirely to residential use.  
Close to the street level, the third storey accommodates public programs.

The last floor is contributing to the city’s public realm.

Overall, the visualised Cluster accommodates 12 families, 2 private businesses, 3 public programs and flexible public space.  

The design of a housing cluster is explored in plan drawings structured from the first to the third phase. The internal spatial layouts coincide with the ones presented in the iso sequence.
The FRAME is visualised in black whilst the customisable IN-FILL configuration is highlighted in red.  

A Group Cluster consisting of 32 housing units is presented in a cross-sectional drawing throughout all phases.

The system of retaining and piling walls are integrating the terraced design into the Kadifekale topography.
The Central Courtyard of the first Cluster blends into the last floor of the second Cluster creating a public space platform offering breathtaking views over Izmir City.


The same Cluster Group is explained in a long sectional and elevational drawing throughout all phases of the project.

Both the architecture and landscape respond to the passing of time: from the initial planting to the blossoming of the olive trees.
Housing Clusters shape an ascendant green path to the majestic Kadifekale Ancient Castle. 

Phase 02 displays housing units inhabited in their minimum form whilst others are still growing. Phase 03 illustrates a maximum and diverse occupation.

Inspired from the Gecekondu Neighbourhood, each of the Housing Units benefits from a network of shared spaces - terraces, balconies and gardens - which encourage interaction and intersection between neighbours.

The network of residential and shared spaces weave together in a Cluster of 16 homes planned around Central and Internal Courtyards accommodating the social life of the resident community.

The majestic Kadifekale hill is populated by a diversity of Growing Homes organised in compact Clusters which enhance the existing topography and offer breathtaking views over Izmir City.  


Umea University | Umea, Sweden
Yasar University | Izmir, Turkey
The London School of Architecture | London, UK