The Diaspora Project : Ryan Shedden.

Ryan is part of the “Global Practice Unit” at the University of Brighton. The unit is led by Professor Robert Mull and helps students to engage in projects in a series of live “project classrooms” across the globe. The Global Practice Unit is part of the “Global Practice Programme” an alliance of Universities and other partners in the USA, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, South Korea and South Africa. Next year the Global Practice Unit will be open to more students in the school and will have live project classrooms within the refugee crises in Greece, Turkey and Southern Italy as well as in Prisons, Schools and arts institutions. For more information contact Robert – r.mull@brighton.ac.uk.

The Global Practice Unit seeks to realise independent proposals through the help of professionals at The University of Brighton by offering an alternative to the traditional unit programme. Historically students have, developed personal theses; started own practices and built live projects. The Unit, at first, asks the student to pre-empt the project by way of a ‘contract’.

As part of this, ‘The Diaspora Project’, by Ryan Shedden, uses a passport which is of relevance to the plight today of refugees and migrants – or better termed as Diaspora – and how their journeys have turned into dismay with the on-going fallout from the war in Syria, which spills its refugees northwards through Turkey and into Greece. They are trying to find a home but every place struggles with integration and so they end up on the fringes of society with poor shelter, food, health and education. This passport has no identity because its aim, overtime, is to establish alternate identity that transcends national divisions by removing barriers and building bridges through forming a community of shared values and perspectives.

Rather than the usual exhaustive application procedures, this one takes just minutes and invites ‘Project Friends’ to take part by being a member. This is a way to introduce the team to the project and to acquaint each team member with each other. This project will be running over the next six months and involves live projects, speculations and conversations. In some cases, this comes directly from the refugee camps situated across Europe, (i.e. EKO community), alternatively these will be talking about the relationship of architecture and refugees at the Global Practice Unit. By the end, the aim is to build a common community with the refugee crisis.

The Diaspora Project is currently working in Northern Greece near a camp known as Vasilika. Conditions in the camp are not nice; a tent for a home and a cup of rice for a meal. Thanks to the philanthropy of the nearby landowner, nicknamed Pappou (meaning grandfather), EKO community consists of temporary tents to raise morale; rather than providing shelter they give warm breakfasts, children’s and adults’ education, English and German lessons and ultimately a place to feel at home in contrast to the drab refugee camp next-door. As part of the Diaspora Project, a phased build is being realised including more permanent structures, ie. education space, kitchen/dining space and winterisation.