Designing for Everyday Life in Asylum Centers.

Master Thesis from the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, done together with Line Marie Syversen, Fall 2016.


In this project we have explored how we could use product design
to improve everyday life for migrants in temporary housing in Norway.

Our insights showed that one big challenge in the asylum seekers everyday life is organising and storing their belongings. There is a constant fear of leaving things in the common areas, so the residents carry everything back and forth between rooms. Our product proposal is a storage unit for asylum centers.

The unit is adaptable to different user needs and can be assembled to fit different spaces. The unit consists of a main structure with movable shelves that together can be built into many different variations. There are two sizes of baskets that, placed on the shelves, can easily be accessed and carried to the kitchen, bathroom, toilet or common rooms. The unit can have different added elements and one example is a rack where you can hang pictures or dry your towel.




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Observations from one of the asylum center we visited during the project.





Research / Insight fase

We started the project by getting an overview of the situation we were designing for. To be able to design a new and better solution, we mapped out todays situation to find out what works and what needs to change. Through our insight, analyze of problems, user patterns and getting and understanding what everyday life is at the reception, we could define a brief and a goal for our project.



Else Abrahamsen Egenes is showing us around at Torshov transit reception









In the research phase we have gathered a lot of interesting insights from many places. We have been to both transit and ordinary receptions, pop-up kitchen with food made by asylum seekers, a public meeting, a private opening for a new asylum center in Oslo, a debate about “living quality in asylum centers, and a music festival at a transit reception. We have also talked to many people with a lot of interesting things to say. Such as Reception managers and employees, The red cross representative, Volunteers, Designers, Interior architects, Architects, A Geographer, a Pedagogue and most importantly; asylum seekers.


One room at a reception. A family of five have been living here in their temporary home for many months.





Key findings

After this we could choose the situation we believe would be meaningful to design for, and that have a potential for a new and better product. The insight has been gathered into four key findings.

Practical key findings
1. Storage – a need for a better organizing solution
2. Carrying – everyone carries things back and forth between rooms

Emotional Key findings
1. Ownership – is necessary if people should treat objects carefully
2. Identity – everyone need to be recognized for who they are





Concept fase

We started our concept fase trying to understand the storage situation better. We analyzed and categorized the objects they have and mapped out which objects they bring to other rooms, when they use it and what demands it has on the storage.


Some of the things we have done trying to understand the storage situation as it is today – sorting every objects and belonging to the rooms.





Our working space at AHO. Working on new ideas and concepts for our design.





We have been exploring colors. These shades are inspired by syrian rugs.




Paper prototypes