After the 2015 Milan Expo, the collaborators of the project repurposed the “Save the Children” pavilion to build a school for Syrian refugee children in the Jarahieh Informal Tented Settlement in the El Marj, Lebanon – an afterlife that could not have been more fitting. The pavilion was disassembled, shipped, and reassembled in a new configuration centered around an internal courtyard. Local residents were involved both in adapting the pavilion’s design to its new site and use as well as in the construction process. The wool from sheep – a waste product in the region – was used for insulation, a technique which has found resonance with the settlement’s inhabitants who are now employing it for their own homes. By reusing a temporary structure for a humanitarian purpose, the project contributes to sustainability through re-appropriation and calls attention to the opportunity for architectural structures to be reused beyond their originally intended purpose.
The jury was greatly moved by the project’s contribution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees and the ingenious reinvention of the pavilion as a school. Within a context lacking basic infrastructure the project provides not only space for education, but also a dignified environment that is a source of pride for the community who helped to build it. Through the use of what would otherwise be material waste (i.e., both the pavilion and the wool insulation), the school is the impressive result of limited means and resources. The project is an implicit critique of the high-design, short lifecycle model of grand exhibition events and offers a potent template for future application.