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Projects with refugees
The refugee crisis is one of the chief challenges of our times. The Goethe-Institut plays a part in the integration of refugees in Germany and, in cooperation with partners, has also been organizing various cultural and educational programmes in the regions of origin, for example in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and in a number of cities in Turkey, since 2013. The different projects are presented in reports and interviews here.

Architectures of Arrival: Berlin networks and technical architectural language

Workshop “Alltag im Exil”, Berlin 2016, Photo: Bernhard Ludewig © Goethe-Institut

To many refugee architects Germany has now become their second homeland. In the temporary Berlin project space “Goethe-Institut Damaskus | Im Exil”, German and Syrian experts from this professional field met to discover what is needed for a positive arrival experience.

How is the Syrian architectural and urban planning scene doing in exile? From 20 October until 5 November 2016, Syrian and German planners and architects met for an intensive exchange. Together they probed the question of how arriving might be structured more smoothly and above all how refugees from this specific professional field can contribute their specific knowledge and competences on location.

Access to professional networks

During the workshop, these experts from Syria and Germany identified an increased need for action particularly regarding the thematic areas of “university, education and training”, “language” and “daily professional routine”. It became clear that in addition to mastering technical language and comprehension of German building regulations, an additional challenge lay in enabling direct access to relevant information and networks.

This was an important insight for the extremely lively Berlin architectural and urban planning scene, where numerous opportunities in the field of architecture already exist. Facilities such as Refugee Academy, the Bundestiftung Baukultur (Federal Foundation for Building Culture) and the Berlin Chamber of Architects are important contact points where new arrivals can obtain information and leading firms offer internships.

Workshop “Alltag im Exil”, Berlin 2016, Photo: Bernhard Ludewig © Goethe-Institut

Need-oriented empowerment

Accustomed to not getting bogged down in problem description, but rather to seeking out concrete solutions, this group of professional architects and planners quickly agreed on the necessity of developing two highly concrete tools. To be able to orient themselves speedily, their colleagues need more technical information and they must also specifically expand their professional vocabulary. The group therefore decided on the development of two very specific tools: “Rapid Transit for Architects in Berlin” and a specific vocabulary list for architecture.

“An absolutely fantastic project with useful results,” praises Thorsten Kreissig from the Refugee Academy, “because it was developed along very need-oriented lines and the people affected could directly contribute their knowledge and personal experience. Moreover, the Rapid Transit for Architects enables quick access to relevant professional networks.” Kreissig adds that the project also contributes greatly to empowerment “because the tools were not developed for refugees, but with them.”

Rapid Transit for Architects

Rapid Transit for Architects © Goethe-Institut
Download SymbolDownload Rapid Transit for Architects (pdf-file, 2 MB)

Speedy and uncomplicated access to technical information is indispensable for newly-arrived architects and planners in Berlin. The German-Syrian team Beatrice Termeer and Ibrahim Alsayed created a folding map aligned with the map of the Berlin rapid transit system. It shows the most important addresses for architects and those who wish to become architects. With the aid of the map, which can be printed out and put in one’s pocket, the locations are quickly and easily identifiable. It connects up with the relevant architectural networks and shows how and where one can contribute one’s professional competences. Universities and centres for education, training and language acquisition are listed, as well as where one can have one’s educational certificates and diplomas recognised and apply for scholarships.

Interactive vocabulary list

Vocabulary list for architecture © Goethe-Institut
Download SymbolDownload the interactive vocabulary list for architecture (pdf-file, 0.2 MB)

The vocabulary list for architecture contains German-Syrian words and phrases for architects in professional practice. It builds on Klett-Verlag’s vocabulary list “Bau – Treffpunkt Beruf” (i.e. construction – your professional meeting-place) and was expanded and supplemented. For this purpose, the list was circulated amongst architects and students in Germany and Syria. “For the translation of many concepts”, thus authors Tony Alarkan aand Razan Shaaban, “we had to draw on the aid of German colleagues and architect friends of ours in Syria, for instance, for the commonplace names of tools used at construction sites. For this we sent pictures of the tools to friends working at construction sites in Syria. The list will be further developed interactively and above all expanded with concepts from office routine.

“A terrific idea,” finds Theresa Keilhacker of the interdisciplinary network Architekten für Architekten (Architects for Architects) as well: “Both these tools will definitely assist new arrivals, since it is particularly important for them to learn the language, do internships – in offices and on construction sites – and of course to immerse themselves in Berlin’s cultural life!”

Ulrike Prinz
ist a doctor of cultural studies and an editor and author for

July 2017

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