The Bartlett School of Architecture


Refugee Cities

Refugee Cities


This project is conceived as a speculative and anticipatory investigation around the actual cost and impact of the migratory wave in Europe. The initial, specific focus, is on Lampedusa and Calais, observing them as continental immigration entry and exit nodes. 

The research consists of a multi-scale analysis of the spatial, social and economic impacts of migration in the urban context, trying to merge transdisciplinary approaches including data-driven mapping and ethnographical research. This will help to create an original composite of spatial visualizations through different media channels, shared and disseminated through an interactive, digital platform. 

By identifying the overlooked issues surrounding the refugee crisis in European cities and challenging the dominant narratives, the platform will provide a reliable overlap of data, curated to better interpret and cope with the intensifying impact of migration on cities. 

At the larger scale, the reconfigured evidence should strengthen the capacity to influence other cities’ pre-emptive strategies to deal with increasing migration and integration challenges. At the local scale, the research should also humanize and describe the multiple economies of migration, the silent narratives of everyday experiences, and the collective urban history of the recent past. 

The ‘Refugee Cities’ research is combining the transdisciplinary richness of the Bartlett, integrating the research expertise of three different departments: the Development Planning Unit, Space Syntax Laboratory (Bartlett School of Architecture) and CASA (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis).


Principal Investigator

Dr. Camillo Boano (DPU) 


Dr. Kayvan Karimi (Space Syntax Laboratory)

Dr. Ed Manley (CASA)

Research Associates

Dr. Giovanna Astolfo (DPU)

Ricardo Marten (DPU)


The research will deliver a multi-scale analysis of spatial, social and economic impact of migration in the urban context through data-driven, participatory mapping aimed at creating original composite spatial visualisations. At the large-scale, there will be an opportunity to gather existing and not yet publicly accessed and spatialised information from governmental agencies, NGOs and European institutions. Metrics to consider are: European and state funds allocated to border surveillance, protection and relief; cost of related infrastructure; census; land use; housing market; tourism rate variation; flow of donations; job market and unemployment rates. At local scale, additional narratives experienced by citizens and smaller economies that are usually lost in big-data analysis will be explored through observation and interviews.

The mapping, visualizations and research insights will be shared via a digital interactive platform with immediate widespread accessibility.


Current narratives around the economic cost of migration and its urban impact either overlook, hide or misinterpret actual data. The research aims to fill this gap and rearticulate notions of public truth, by generating new kind of mapped evidence of the cost associated with the politics of hospitality (humanitarian intervention) and hostility (securitisation and policing) and their impacts on urban context, planning and policy.

Based on data-driven participatory mapping methods, information and insights from this research project will be freely accessible on a web platform that will serve local policy makers and planners, NGOs, and citizens science. The approach will emphasise overlooked issues surrounding the refugee crisis in cities and via the digital platform it will provide local stakeholders (authorities, planners, NGOs, humanitarian organisations) with reliable composite data to better cope with the intensifying impact of migration on cities.

At the larger scale, the reconfigured evidence should strengthen the capacity to influence cities’ prospective strategies to deal with increasing migration and integration challenges. An evidence based depiction of the cost and impact of current refugee crisis will benefit also investigative journalists, and human right activists.

migration informal settlements