D&F x Ghata



The displacement of refuges lasts on average 17 years.
The Ghata offers a humane alternative to tents that only last 3-6 months. 
It is an impactful design with a successful track record that is both a contextualized yet scalable solution shifting bleak conditions and seeding much needed hope for refugees for a brighter future. 

The global refugee crisis is unprecedented. The Ghata (cover in Arabic) project started in response to the ongoing civil war in Syria that has caused the forced displacement of more than half of the country’s 22 million citizens. Lebanon has the highest worldwide per capita share of the 5 million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR totaling approximately 1.1 million disclosed individuals and between 300-500 thousand unregistered.

Over half of the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are under the age of 18, with more than 60% out of school.  The magnitude of this crisis is unparalleled and although there are many organizations and aid projects, none were really addressing education in a systematic and complete way. 

The Ghata project is the honorary winner of the SXSW EDU 2018 Learn by Design Award.

Ghata Images Page 1

Although the predicament is in its seventh year, most relief agencies are still using tents for shelter and education. The average life span of a tent is 6 months; its fabric and support components are not adequate for the wide fluctuations and the turbulent weather that can be found in various areas of the Middle East – it can range from extreme heat to freezing cold and snow.

There were no solutions on the ground that were designed and conceived strategically, most shelter units seemed to follow a one-size-fits all approach, even award-winning designs like the Ikea Home which didn’t work at all on the ground in Lebanon!

Ghata Images Page 3

In a recent study conducted by the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service at the American University of Beirut (AUB-CCES) and the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma in Lebanon, most refugee children and their parents report that the main reason for high dropout rates in refugee education centers were inadequate built environments.

RabihShibli GhataProject4 DesignandFlow 

That’s where we come in. The Ghata  was envisioned and designed by architect Rabih Shibli to address the complex landscape of humanitarian needs as well as all local constraints by building a solution that was derived from refugees’ own shelter construction practices.

The Ghata design is based on simplicity, portability, adaptability, scalability, climatic responsiveness, and economic efficiency. AUB volunteers assembled the first prototype unit in 2013, and 2 refugees built the second Ghata in 6 working hours. Currently, every Ghata unit serves as a classroom and multiple units are built as a school. 10 portable school campuses in the Informal Tented Refugee Settlements have been built, serving over 5000 students annually across various areas in Lebanon. 

Ghata Images Page 4

The Ghata Project together with Design and Flow address key challenges refugees face in order to access education by building an ecosystem and creative design framework

Designed to be durable and student-friendly while providing an optimal environment for learning and child safety

Adaptable to each community's needs, this sustainable design that can be easily assembled, dissembled and reassembled as well as customized by refugees

Delivery of accredited curriculum for primary and middle school, vocational training, and university preparatory programs for refugees 

The multifunctional structures can be used as classrooms, kitchens, computer rooms, and science labs

Programming promotes cultural activities and art therapy on a cultural and communal level

Campuses are built to facilitate local relief efforts

WantedDesignExhibit Ghata3 DesignandFlow

 Design and Flow built and showcased one of the Ghata structures as part of the exhibit Transitions: Migration and Travel at NYCxDesign Week with Wanted Design at Industry City. This exhibition was a 2017 honoree for the NYCxDesign Awards in the category of Exhibition/Installation presented by Interior Design Magazine and ICFF


Ghata System
The Ghata project is more than a physical design it plugs into a bigger ecosystem solution. It is designed as a restorative built environment that ensures dignity and normalcy to refugees and its educational programming also reflect that. They are holistic programs that provide high quality education on par with the education you would expect for any child!
This entire framework is embedded within the community so cultural programming is also a key aspect of the intervention, which is expressed in the personalization of the schools through arts and gardening, music and sports. The schools become a focal point for the children, their families, and the teachers to celebrate their local culture.