Right to a New Home

By: Gul Kacmaz Erk  

Right to life, freedom, security, equality, justice and privacy are amongst basic human rights articulated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration ( While these concepts are easier to define for a long-term member of society, they are more complicated for new minorities who are forced to displacement because of conflict, war, climate change, economy, etc. Whether they perceive it as permanent or temporary, refugees stay in their new “home” for an average of 26 years (, which urges the need for integration and inclusion. The paper outlines a pilot study concentrating on migration, architecture and the arts (film). This study, which is the “trial and error phase” of a larger practice-based participatory research project, tests the scholars’ ideas about the refugees’ “lived spaces” including their homes, streets, workplaces, as well as the places they go for education, shopping and leisure. Carried out with refugees who are amongst 3,548,273 registered Syrians in Turkey (, updated: 16.08.2018), the study uses filmmaking to understand and share their architectural/urban needs and challenges in Balat, Istanbul. By proposing the refugees an opportunity to make short films about the public and private spaces in their (new) environment, it not only aims to provide them a skill and medium to be heard but also to invite their (Turkish) neighbours to see them as equals. This might be a step in defining misconceptions around these new members of the society, breaking down some of the barriers and, in the long run, towards integration and celebration of diversity.

Architecture, Urbanism, Migration, Filmmaking, Syrian Refugees, Istanbul, Integration, Diversity, Home
Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Gul Kacmaz Erk

Dr Gul Kacmaz Erk is a lecturer and programme leader in Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast, the UK. She received her Bachelor and Master degrees in Architecture at Middle East Technical University and her PhD degree in Architectural Design at Istanbul Technical University, Turkey. She practiced as a professional architect in Istanbul and Amsterdam. She was a researcher at University of Pennsylvania, the USA and University College Dublin, Ireland, and taught at Philadelphia University, the USA, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, and Izmir University of Economics, Turkey. In her research, she focuses on cinema and the city, architecture and film, architecture and migration, architectural media and communication, and architectural design and theory.