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The Albuquerque Refugee Center


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Hello, citizens of the world.  I am Zachary Auster, and I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.  This website is about the refugee center I have decided to design for my local community.  If you read closely, you will learn about why I have decided to undertake this project, the building itself, and about my community as a whole.

Why?

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This summer I had the pleasure of attending a symposium about Albuquerque’s role in the world.  During that session, I had the pleasure of sitting down with several refugee entrepreneurs who had recently relocated to the city.  They spoke about the struggles of being a refugee and making money in America.  What I learned that day was that there was only one organization in the city that helped refugees assimilate into American life and that that task was very difficult.  What I took away as the major challenges were foremost the economic struggle as limited government aid and lack of a credit score hampered employment opportunities, and secondly, the language barrier.  I saw this as a major problem and one that needed a concrete solution.

What is a refugee?  Merriam Webster defines a refugee as a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.  Something that many people in Albuquerque don’t know is the sheer number of refugees in the city.  According to the Omaha World-Herald, there are almost 2,500 refugees that have come to the state of New Mexico since 2002, and Albuquerque is home to over 80% of them.  The full list is below:

Refugees in Albuquerque (2,097)

Iraq 513
Cuba 415
Dem. Rep. of the Congo 286
Somalia 196
Myanmar 168
Burundi 121
Syria 86
Vietnam 78
Iran 67
Liberia 46
Central African Republic 30
Congo 28
Colombia 27
Sudan 11
Other Countries 25

Even though we have many refugees in this relatively small community, they are often unnoticed and forgotten about.  These numbers don’t even include immigrants, who require many of the same services that refugees do.  I talked to a Filipina girl in my grade who emigrated to the US as a child.  She said that her family would have definitely used resources to learn English and to build credit if they were available.  Albuquerque has recently recognized this and opened an Office of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (see the video below).  This is a step in the right direction, but not nearly enough.

The Building

The Albuquerque Refugee Center will have two main functions.  The first is to be a general meeting space for refugees and immigrants to create a community.  The second is to be an educational space to learn classes on basic financial skills as well as take English classes.  We will partner with groups like Read to Excel, which teaches refugee kids English and was originally started by students at my school.  They will now have a space to do their activities other than a public elementary school giving them more flexibility.

This is the floorplan of the building.  There are two classroom spaces on the left which allow for multiple classes to be held simultaneously.  In the central main hall, there is a sitting area with a fireplace for people to talk and make friendships.  On the right, there are restrooms as well as a storage/janitorial space to help keep the space clutter-free and clean.

The model is shown.  I wanted to give the building an alpine feel as it is in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.  For the same reason, the entire back wall is made of glass.  I wanted to use windows as much as possible to let in natural light.  I generally want this to feel like a warm, welcoming space.

The Refugee Center will be located at the intersection of Eubank Blvd. and Central Ave.  These are two main roads which are crucial to Albuquerque and its history (Central is part of historic Route 66), and I want to place it in an easily accessible area.  There is currently a large pharmacy which is for sale on which I would construct the building.  It is 2,500 square feet and measures 50 feet by 50 feet.  The red arrow is the entrance and the black surrounding the building is a parking lot.

In Conclusion…

I really want to know what you think of my project, as well as hear your stories about refugees and immigrants in your community.  If you have the time, please fill out my Google Form (click on the red text)!  Also, please comment.  If I can get a conversation started about refugees this project will have achieved its goal.  If you are interested in learning more about refugees in Albuquerque, this article by the University of New Mexico’s newspaper is a start.  Also, if you liked this presentation, do research into volunteering at a refugee assistance organization in your area.  There aren’t nearly enough of them, and I’m sure they would be grateful for your service.

I would like to thank Sydney Medford of Oakland, CA, as well as Danielle Fernandes of Jakarta, Indonesia for their continued feedback and support in the development of this project.  I would also like to thank Ken Schwartz and the rest of my architecture class.  I really enjoyed working with all of you and seeing your own projects develop.

Thanks for viewing my project!

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. May 01, 2018 by Jill and Craig Brown

    Zach,
    I really like your idea and think it is an important one. It would be a wonderful support for a lot of people. The design with the mountains and natural light in mind resonates with me.
    Good work on your project!
    Dr. Brown

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