Pop-up hotel in former prison is run by refugees

by | Apr 17, 2018 | Design

A pop-up hotel in Amsterdam gives refugees the chance to be an integral part of the hospitality industry. The Movement Hotel is located in a former prison and is run by asylum seekers and refugees. We take a look inside this fascinating project.

Starting a Movement

Europe’s refugee crisis has been a source of turmoil, tragedy and confusion. Educated, willing and capable people are fleeing their war-torn homelands in search of a better life, but European countries are having difficulty accommodating the large numbers of refugees arriving on their shores on a weekly basis. It can often be challenging to find shelter and employment for these people, but a new pop-up hotel in the Dutch city of Amsterdam has found a way to integrate refugees into the operations of their property. The Movement Hotel is a venture organised by the non-profit Movement On The Ground, a foundation that aims to meet the needs of victims of humanitarian crises by providing practical donations and contributing to local economies and communities. The Movement Hotel tells its guests to “Do something good: turn yourself in and go to prison!”. They are referring to the fact that the pop-up hotel is located Amsterdam’s notorious Bijlmerbajes prison. Prison cells have been turned into minimalist guest rooms, while the laundry station has been transformed into a cafe. And the best part of it all is that refugees from the nearby Asylum Seeking Center have been hired as the hotel’s employees, giving them purpose and a chance to reintegrate into society.

Transformation by design

The Netherlands has long been regarded as a leader in cutting-edge, contemporary design and architecture, so perhaps it is no wonder that The Movement Hotel stands out not only in its mission, but also in its design. Dutch design firm Èmcé Interior Architecture were behind the transformation of the imposing and dour prison into a world of fun, liveliness and hope. Gone are the depressing hues of the former jail; they have been replaced with bright pink and red paint in the lobby and reception, while the exercise yard has been given a sporty makeover, with loud green walls and astroturf announcing a new era of play and conviviality. The guest rooms have been kitted out in a neutral palette, with greys and whites being the order of the day. The fact that the building used to be a prison is not something that has been erased from the new finishings. Instead, guests are invited to think about their own freedom and those of the refugees who are working there, with slogans such as “Freedom?” and photographs of refugees lining the walls of the hotel. These interventions challenge people to “ think about their freedom, but also the meaning of freedom for the refugees who have made a long journey for their safety and need to start a new life,” says Chris Burghard, founder of the design studio.


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