Migrant crisis: Hamburg uses shipping containers as homes

Migrant crisis: Hamburg uses shipping containers as homes

Workmen are still building this site and these are some of Hamburg’s newest refugee homes, with room for just over 200 people.

Adorned with a rooftop terrace and a construction time just under a year, Eco Design Studio’s desert home is one of the few residences on our list representing a student-designer collaboration. The mint-green dwelling sports an industrial design, with concrete floors and a walnut finish, along with tools for collecting solar power and harvesting rainwater. A slew of dual-pane aluminum windows provide ample natural light throughout the year, but it’s the home’s five separate decks that give it astonishing views of the surrounding San Francisco Peaks.

All around are converted shipping containers: functional metal boxes painted red and stacked two storeys high. New tenants are already moving in.

A family invites us inside. Yusef is an energetic young man who introduces his wife, a shy pregnant woman in a bright pink headscarf, and his little girl.

“I didn’t like life in Iraq,” he tells me. “Maybe I’m killed, maybe my children are killed, maybe my wife is killed. In the markets there are car bombers, in the hospital there are car bombers.”

It can take up to five months for an asylum application to be processed, although the government has promised to reduce the average waiting time to three months.

The exterior walls of the Decameron Design Shop are just as colorful as the Brazilian neighborhood in which it resides. Renowned architect Marcio Kogan built the low-cost shopping facility using two rows of stacked containers, placing the six containers adjacent to downtown. Translucent sliding doors reveal a smattering of products along the walls when during hours of operation, and to isolate the storefronts from the office, Kogan implemented a garden courtyard near the rear of the property. It’s vibrant and bold, with a center lounge area that’s probably more inviting than your living room.

For now, Yusef and his family live in a single room and share a kitchen and bathroom with the other tenants. His oldest child is now in a German school. He hopes to learn German then get a job.

As Yusef makes tentative plans for the future, the authorities in Hamburg are struggling. It’s estimated that about 400 refugees and migrants arrive here every day.

Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted again at the weekend that Germany could cope with the record number of people seeking asylum in the country.

But the woman given the task of co-ordinating some of the refugee housing in Hamburg tells us the sheer numbers are a huge logistical problem.

In fact, as the city ran out of accommodation, the regional government passed a new law allowing it to force commercial landlords to rent them empty buildings.

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