Skip to main content

Solution or Utopia? Design for Refugees

Museums/Institutes Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Museumplein 10
1071 DJ Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 5732911

Open Daily 10-18 hrs
Fri 10-22 hrs

Exhibition 20 May — 3 Sep


Yara Said, The Refugee Nation Flag. Foto: Angela Luna

Today, 60 million people are fleeing from war, or have been displaced for other reasons. Designers and architects can contribute by developing inexpensive and/or smart solutions. With exhibition Solution or Utopia? Design for Refugees the Stedelijk presents recent initiatives designed for this purpose, and facilitates a platform for discussion about the role that designers, architects and companies play in this societal issue.

One of the designers’ central challenges was to devise practical, real-life solutions. From clothing that can double as a tent, to improved signage in a refugee camp, and from linkable metal floor sections for temporary shelters to a digital service that helps refugees navigate their new environment. Several of the proposals were designed or implemented by refugees, like the flag designed by the Syrian Yara Said for the Refugee Nation during the last Olympic Games and the furniture by Cucula, which is produced in Berlin.

About the projects
The exhibition Solution or Utopia? also includes a number of projects that were submitted for last year’s Refugee Challenge. This contest is organised by the annual What Design Can Do congress in Amsterdam, which encourages designers to come up with proposals aimed at improving the reception and integration of refugees. The competition is organised in partnership with UNHCR and the IKEA foundation. The five winning projects, which have now reached the next developmental stage, will be presented on Tuesday 7 March.

The Stedelijk is mounting this presentation to create a platform to discuss how designers, architects and companies can have a meaningful impact on the lives of refugees. What works and what doesn’t? Does a design offer a feasible, workable solution, or is it a far-off utopian dream? Is it useful to focus on refugees as a separate group? Do some designs (such as a sticker with ‘Refugees Welcome’) stigmatise or welcome? Is the western perspective of some designers a help or hindrance? Are refugees’ real needs actually addressed?

Solution or Utopia? Design for Refugees will take place at two locations: aside from the Stedelijk, part of the presentation will be on view at Lola Lik, a creative hub situated near the asylum seekers centre in the former Bijlmerbajes prison in Amsterdam. The Stedelijk Museum is collaborating on the project with Refugee Company, which is based there.

The address of Lola Lik:
H.J.E. Wenckebachweg 48. 

The exhibition is open daily, from 10.00-18.00.

Ingeborg de Roode and Jeanette Bisschops. 



Other events

Galleries BorzoGallery

Wed - Sat / 13-17 hrs 
+ by appointment

Date 6 Apr - 28 Apr

Opening Friday 6 Apr
17 - 19 hrs


Naito and Kuwayama

Rakuko Naito  ‘Untitled (RN1612-3-1_2-'17)’, 2017 Japanese paper, 30.5 x 30.5 cm

Others De Nederlandsche Bank - Art Gallery

Mon - Fri / 9-17 hrs
+ by appointment
Visitors will be asked to show valid proof of identity.

Date 16 Mar - 26 Apr

Opening Friday 16 Mar

Galleries Torch

Wed - Sat / 12-18 hrs
+ by appointment

Date 14 Apr - 26 May

Opening Saturday 14 Apr
17 - 19 hrs

Museums/Institutes Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography

Tue - Sun / 11-18 hrs

Date 9 Mar - 3 Jun

Mercedes Rastatt, 1993 © Andreas Gursky