As we watch people and organizations help to rebuild Haiti and listen in on discussions about the role of design in the face of disaster, we can't help but consider how our discipline might continue to impact those who are displaced by traumatic experiences. Losing belongings affects an individual on one level, but losing a home impacts a person's sense of place and security. While there are many responding to tragedy in various capacities around the world, we are aware that it takes time before homes are restored and lives are, dare we say, regained with some sense of normal routine.
The Displaced Project by Raneen Nosh, of Citizen Designer, questions the emotional impact of displacement and explores the meaning of home for those who have been affected by damaging events such as natural disasters or political conflict. Nosh, a recent graduate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, created a textile-based object that is "designed to suit the nomadic needs of a displaced person, while also serving to recreate a sense of domestic comfort to preserve personal and cultural memory." She began the project by using cultural probes as a means of collaborating with individuals from Iraq and Africa who had experienced some form of displacement. During this preliminary research, Nosh asked for feedback using various methods to understand daily routines and how these were affected by trauma. Using color, texture and image, Nosh explored how people's emotions were affected and pursued a means to address these needs during a time of trauma or loss.
What resulted was an adaptable and versatile garment that is all at once a bag, a bed, and a seasonable tunic. As a tunic, its two layers can be worn together or separately, depending on the climate. The outer layer is an altered wool army blanket, which can easily be delivered to conflict areas, whereas the inner lining is basic cotton that can be recycled from old clothing or other familiar textiles. The piece can also be rolled up and carried as a bag, or rolled out and used as a space on which to lie.
The project simulates a sense of domestic comfort to preserve personal and cultural sentiments. Pockets have been integrated throughout the object to store personal belongings such as important documents, photographs, or jewelry. Consideration was taken to place the pockets to correspond to particular emotional associations of the body. For example, a high collar has been incorporated in order to protect the vulnerable space on the back of the neck.
For Nosh, the next phase of this project is to connect with organizations, such as MSF/Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF, and to propose this garment as a valuable complement to their disaster relief initiatives.
Photos courtesy of Christina Ladwig from Gene Doe