The area around Calais, a town in northern France, has for many years been a major transit point for refugees on their way to the United Kingdom. During the recent peak in the number of refugees, the French and British authorities increasingly fortified this border landscape, forcing those on the move to build increasingly permanent shelters for themselves. As this self-built city, also sometimes referred to as ‘the jungle’, continued to grow the response of the authorities became increasingly violent. By now, the self-built city has been fully evicted and demolished, displacing its inhabitants.

The media hype following these events prompted a large number of aid workers, activists, volunteers, but also architects to make their way to Calais in recent years. For this episode, we talk to a few of them to find out what in particular triggered them to go, what they encountered and what they did. How should architects relate to this large, self-built areas? Is it possible to make a positive contribution in such a complex environment? Shouldn’t the focus be on the ‘architecture’ of these violent border systems? And is there a need to document or archive the self-built cities?

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