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Participatory architecture workshops with asylum seekers and local people: experience from the Crossing Cultures project in Southern Italy

Calissano, F., Denicke-Polcher, S., Giacco, D. & Haenschel, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-7855-2735 (2022). Participatory architecture workshops with asylum seekers and local people: experience from the Crossing Cultures project in Southern Italy. Health Education Journal, 82(1), pp. 95-107. doi: 10.1177/00178969221139819


Background: Participatory architecture can promote dialogue across cultures, whilst working together on creating physical outputs. A team of academics with a background in architecture, psychology and health sciences evaluated a specific participatory architecture workshop in Southern Italy, part of the Crossing Cultures project, to explore participants’ experiences and perceived benefits. In the context of situated learning, the workshop brought together architecture students, local citizens and asylum seekers, who by working together and learning from each other have formed a community of practice (CoP).

Objective: The aim of this study was to explore experiences of members of this CoP and their beliefs on the benefits of this project and ways to improve it.

Setting: Data collection took place during the 2019 participatory architecture workshop in Belmonte in Italy.

Method: Twenty-five asylum seekers, locals and students took part in in-depth interviews, which were later subjected to thematic analysis.
Results: Participants reported experiences relating to “living together”, “working together”, “making home”, “making locals comfortable to be involved” and of “understanding and respecting differences”. Perceived benefits were “creating a space for connection”, “revitalising local communities”, “promoting development of towns”, “broadening horizons”, “gaining or practising skills”, “having your ideas heard” and “creating lasting things”.
Conclusion: These data suggest that creating a CoP, as per Lave and Wenger’s theoretical framework, not only fulfils individual goals but also, importantly, common concerns. In conclusion, participatory architecture workshops in an area with high immigration can create connections between asylum seekers and locals, and promote intercultural dialogue, whilst helping to reactivate deprived areas.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Migration, Mental Health, Integration, Architecture, Crossing Cultures
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DG Italy
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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