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The area around Calais, a town in northern France, has for many years been a major transit point for refugees on their way to the United Kingdom. During the recent peak in the number of refugees, the French and British authorities increasingly fortified this border landscape, forcing those on the move to build increasingly permanent shelters for themselves. As this self-built city, also sometimes referred to as ‘the jungle’, continued to grow the response of the authorities became increasingly violent. Now, the self-built city has been demolished and its inhabitants displaced.

The media hype following these events prompted a large number of aid workers, activists, volunteers, but also architects to make their way to Calais. For this episode, we talk to a few of them to find out what in particular triggered them to go, what they encountered and what they did. How should architects relate to these large, self-built areas? Is it possible to make a positive contribution in such a complex environment? Should ‘architecture’ be the focus of these violent border systems? And is there a need to document or archive such self-built cities?

Grainne Hassett is a Dublin-based architect, who initiated various construction projects in Calais as well as worked on an extensive documentation project.
Léopold Lambert is based in Paris, where he is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Funambulist, a magazine that continues to critically reflect on complex spatial-political situations such as Calais.
Merve Bedir is an architect, now based in Hong Kong, and has over the last few years been involved in different locations on the ‘migrant trail’ between Syria and Calais.


40:15 IKEA refugee tent
48:18 Sam Jacob’s replica refugee shelter, exhibited at the V&A and Venice Architecture Biennale
52:30 Gran Horizonte, Urban Think Tank’s prize-winning exhibition on Torre David at the Venice Architecture Biennale

This episode was directed by René Boer/the Failed Architecture team.