Living With Conflict: IKEA Creates a Replica of a Real Syrian Home at Its Flagship Store

The simplicity of the building materials — bare, uninsulated cinder blocks — lends the space a mood of precariousness, reflecting the unpredictable quality of life in the midst of conflict.

Pat Finn Pat Finn

For the past five years, a civil war has raged in Syria. The conflict has claimed almost half a million lives and created over 4,800,000 refugees. In addition to the refugees, about 7,600,000 people in Syria are internally displaced, as the country has been partitioned into hotly contested territories, some controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s autocratic regime and others by a loose confederation of rebel groups.

Conversations about the Syrian Civil War often come around to the fate of the millions of refugees currently seeking sanctuary in Europe and the United States. Far-right political factions have stoked anxiety about the security concerns posed by the refugees, in some cases by falsely accusing refugees of participating in terror attacks.

Lost in these discussions is a realistic account of what life is like for people in cities like Aleppo, which is currently being subjected to a brutal bombing campaign by Assad. In order to help bridge this empathy gap, none other than IKEA has created a replica of a modest Syrian residence for customers to peruse in their flagship store in Slependen, Norway.

The replica, which takes the form of one of IKEA’s iconic showrooms, is laconically named “25m2 of Syria,” following the company’s brusque Scandinavian tradition. It is modeled on a real-life house owned by a woman named Rana, who lives just outside Damascus with her family of nine.

The showroom contains personal touches such as toys and photographs, hints at the day-to-day lives of the family that inhabits this small space. Despite these intimate touches, the simplicity of the building materials — bare, uninsulated cinder blocks — lends the space a mood of precariousness, reflecting the unpredictable quality of life in the midst of conflict.

More information about Rana and her family can be gleaned by reading the product tags attached to the home’s modest furniture, which relates details about challenges the family faces, such as their lack of food, medicine and clean water. At the end of each tag is a link where visitors are encouraged to donate money to the Red Cross to fund its humanitarian initiatives in Syria.

The showroom project was conceived by the advertising firm POLand is being carried out along with Norway’s annual TV fundraising event TV-aksjonen.

All images via designboom

Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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