A HOME AWAY FROM HOME is an initiative of the COA Netherlands in cooperation with the Government Architect of the Netherlands.


Innovative and flexible housing solutions with social added value: ahomeawayfromhome.nl

On the 18th of January 2016, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade launched the Open Call ‘A Home away from Home’: a design competition for innovative housing solutions of asylum seekers. The results of the open call contains a wide range of possible solutions, varying from foldable units and building kits to social strategies. After all, the issue of temporary, flexible and affordable accommodation is not just relevant to COA. This form of housing presents a solution for a far wider group of people who need short- or longer-term accommodation. Examples include asylum seekers with a refugee status, people starting out on the housing market, students, singles and senior citizens.

The growing need for flexible accommodation is a result of broader trends in our society and presents complex challenges for municipal administrations and housing corporations. Since the competition explicitly asked for innovative plans with broad implications for society, the selected solutions can be used to generate social added value for the local community.

On the 29th of June, the COA and the Chief Government Architect have launched ahomeawayfromhome.nl. Aim of the website is to present a wide range of possible solutions and ideas for housing, which can also be interesting for other and groups and interested parties.

Ahomeawayfromhome.nl is an initiative from the COA in cooperation with Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade.

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Background Open Call

2015 saw a record number of asylum seekers entering the Netherlands. This presented the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) with a huge challenge. The asylum seekers’ centres were filled to capacity, meaning that COA had to accommodate asylum seekers in emergency shelters and crisis accommodation centres. In addition, the relocation of asylum seekers to individual housing units within particular municipalities grinded to a halt, because the municipalities in question had a shortage of suitable units. Many of the asylum seekers who had been awarded temporary or permanent refugee status were required to wait in a reception centre until their new housing became available. While the question of how to accommodate these asylum seekers with refugee status in the Netherlands’ 393 municipalities was not the key focus of this competition, this issue was part of the context that needed to be taken into account by the entrants.

To respond better to the constantly fluctuating demand for housing for asylum seekers, the COA and Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade took the initiative to organize the open call ‘A Home away from Home’. The participants were asked to answer the question as to how the COA can
respond better to the constantly fluctuating demand for housing for asylum seekers,
and at the same time provide them with a suitable temporary home: A Home away from Home. The entries also had to be suitable for housing other groups.

On the 18th of January 2016 the Open Call was launched. The participants in the competition were
explicitly asked to come up with innovative solutions that go beyond the current types of housing.
According to Chief Government Architect, Floris Alkemade, expertise in design combined with new
production technologies, material applications and technical innovations are key to achieving this.

The first round of the competition was closed on the 14th of March the 14th of March. 366 teams
participated in the first round - the ideas competition. 78% of them were professionals, 22% were
students. Almost a third of these submissions made a proposal to convert vacant buildings; the
remaining entries presented designs for flexible housing units on available land. Of the
participating professionals, 64% were designers. The majority (51%) were architects, but urban
planners, interior designers, product designers and artists also participated. In many cases, the designers were part of teams in which other disciplines were also involved. Several (former) refugees also participated in the competition, who approached the task from their own experiences. On the 29th of June, the six winning designs in the competition ‘A Home away from Home’ were announced
by president of the jury Floris Alkemade and Carolien Schippers (COA) in Het Nieuwe
Instituut in Rotterdam.

In a follow-up to the competition, a number of prototypes will be shown during the Dutch Design week in October. Carolien Schippers, housing manager COA: "I strongly believe in the persuasive force of prototypes you can actually touch and experience the spatiality of. By contributing to the manufacturing of these prototypes we, as COA, want to help speed up the process towards the practical implementation of the designs." In these coming months the six winning teams are going to be working on the development of a full-scale prototype of their designs. Jury chair and Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade is very pleased with the design power that has been
mobilised for this major social issue and he is prepared to be engaged in this next phase as well.

Pop-up expo and magazine A Home away from Home

During the final event on the 29th of Juny, the
pop-up expo A Home away from Home is launched in Het Nieuwe Instituut (Rotterdam). With this pop-up expo, the competition organisers want to show the variety of the results of the open call. The pop-up expo will call at several places. Also, a magazine is published on the occasion of the competition.


The competition entries were judged by:
Floris Alkemade – Government Architect
Carolien Schippers – Housing manager COA
Jos Wienen – president asylum committee of the Council of Dutch Municipalities and mayor of the city of Katwijk.
Shyam Khandekar – Urban planner/ architect in India and Europe, chief-editor of MY LIVEABLE CITY
Ferdows Kazemi – former refugee, author, columnist
Adri Duivesteijn – former member of the senate and former member of parliament Eerste en Tweede Kamerlid, municipal executive in Den Haag and Almere and former director of the Dutch Architecture Institut
Mick Eekhout – professor emeritus product development Technical University Delft, owner and general director of Octatube in Delft.

Videoregistration of the Kick-Off on 18 January 2016 in Kantien (Utrecht)

From Border To Home - Video message from Juulia Kauste
Asylum seekers: what does it mean for The Netherlands?
Interviews with asylum seekers in Onnen, The Netherland
10 February - Speech Governmentarchitect Alkemade at TU Delft (in English)