From the ARCADE Issue 34.2 feature, “Architectures of Migration: A Survey of Displacements, Routes, and Arrivals.” Articles from the issue will release online over the following weeks. Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

Migration Lab Laura Pana Hague Humanity House

Welcome to the Living Room! at the Hague’s Humanity House in July 2016. Photo: Migrationlab

I have lived abroad in Europe for 10 years. Coming from Romania, a country that’s often negatively perceived, I faced bureaucratic hurdles and discrimination, labels, stereotypes, and misconceptions. It was a complex process to work through my frustrations and anger, as well as the construct of myself versus them.

However, this journey was also transformative. I became more tolerant and close with people of different cultures. I attempted to understand our reactions and fears when facing “foreigners” or “strangers”—people like myself. I was interested in how we form perceptions about, communicate with, and relate to each other.

I realized I was missing a space where migrants, refugees, and locals could get to know each other and share their life experiences—their realities unfiltered by the media and political discourse. In 2014, I began a blog featuring my own stories as a starting point for an exploration of migration issues such as identity, home, belonging, and acceptance. As others joined the conversation, I realized the need for physical spaces where people could meet, interact, and inspire—this became Migrationlab, an organization that provides just that.

Welcome to the Living Room! is Migrationlab’s social design and culture project. Together with migrants, refugees, and locals, we transform urban spaces into public living rooms in cities throughout Europe. In these cocreated places, the three communities share stories of their journeys and reflect on migration issues through art and performance. So far, we’ve transformed art galleries and artistic spaces, a room in a former bread factory in Vienna’s most segregated neighborhood, and an Egyptian fisherman’s boat in Amsterdam, which transported 282 refugees to Italy in 2013. People now have the possibility of codesigning their next Migrationlab Living Room through participatory workshops.

Having the opportunity to get to know each other by sharing who we are and where we come from makes us fearless. Migrationlab’s Living Rooms provide inclusive spaces in which such conversations can take place.