Throughout history, as people have found new reasons and ways to circulate around the world, infrastructure facilitating these movements have been catalysts for the growth of economies, ideas, and societies. As a new wave of migration into Europe has created challenges for the destination countries, new infrastructure is needed to support not the physical movement, but to address a temporal movement, the migrants’ transition from newcomers to permanent members of a new society Along the ancient Silk Road, caravanserai were places for traders and travelers on camelback to rest, replenish supplies, and engage with other travelers and locals along the route. These stations served as waypoints to break up long and arduous journeys, enabled the exchange of products and information tangential to the movement of people, and became critical hubs for the flow of wealth, knowledge and culture between East and West.
In the recent migration of refugees to countries like Sweden, the migrants who made the physical journey have to undertake an even more difficult process to establish themselves in their new countries. It takes years to learn Swedish, update their certifications and training, and acquire the status and network necessary to enter the mainstream workforce. While there are programs aimed at helping, waypoints are needed for this temporal journey just as the caravanserai marked progress along the physical route.
Northern Light is a mobile campus for Malmö, Sweden that encourages curiosity, empathy and above all, exchange between locals and immigrants. It is a deployable campus where existing integration programs can host training sessions, where migrants can earn income, and engage with each other and with locals as they start to build the networks needed to become more established in their new country.
The programming is hosted by modular canopies formed by expandable arches. While the modules are mobile and can be flexibly arranged for a number of different functions, one ideal arrangement features 5 modules that spiral inward, forming covered pockets of spaces around a central courtyard. Part of the spiral runs parallel to the pedestrian street connecting Ystadsgatan and Annelundsgatan, allowing a market to be set up in one of the modules to engage the public.
The arches are wrapped in translucent polyester fabric strategically treated with thermochromatic pigment that becomes transparent when physically touched. Those who are curious about what is going on inside the installation and get close enough to touch it are rewarded with clarity. The colorchanging qualities create another form of communication that builds connection and empathy between locals and migrants. The translucency and arch shaped opening creates a sense of openness and lightness all around the pavilion.
The installation takes inspiration from coworking spaces to cater to a range of occupational needs. Digital workers can carve out a space for their work inside the courtyard or one of the modules, while makers can have a place to sell their wares. Job seekers can browse the noticeboard and employers have a clear place to advertise.