Architectures of the Humanitarian Front

PhD Research by Theodossis Issaias, Yale School of Architecture, Yale University.
(2015 – 2021)

Theodossis Issaias
Architecture, Archive, Collective Equipment, Criticism, Domesticity, Economy, Housing, Infrastructure, Movements, Policy, Study, Territorial, Theory, Urban

Theodossis’s research focuses on a period around WWI when conflict, displacement, and territorial insecurity provoked the reconfiguration of humanitarian operations –their spatial organization and ethical imperatives. Between the 1910s and 1930s, a flurry of humanitarian activity emerged, old institutions were restructured, new institutions were formed, and new methods of action crystalized, entrenching representations, languages, and practices that have stayed with us ever since. His dissertation, “Architectures of the Humanitarian Front, 1915-1930: The American Red Cross and the Refugee Settlement Commission of the League of Nations,”  begins with an examination of the American Red Cross (ARC, 1881-), as it transformed from a relatively unknown philanthropic society into the only recognized relief organization responsible for administering foreign aid on the country’s behalf. Contingent on the geopolitical and commercial ambitions of the U.S., these foreign aid programs unfolded over strategic locations around the globe, culminating in the refugee aid and resettlement programs in Europe during WWI. From there, I trace the rise of an international refugee regime and the creation of the League of Nations (1920-1946) in the aftermath of the War by focusing on the League’s Refugee Settlement Commission (RSC) operations in Greece between 1924 and 1930. Objects of study are material traces, plans of settlements, drawings of shelters and construction details, stipulations of housing assistance loans, letters between humanitarian workers, official reports, and publicity campaigns from the archives of the two organizations and the localities of their respective interventions. I posit that spatial production –from institutional headquarters to emergency shelters– was a central concern of these organizations. As soon as they systematized their modes of operation, they sought the knowledge and technical expertise of architects, who, in turn, conscripted to the humanitarian cause. Within a period of two decades, renowned architects –including Chester Aldrich and Fred Forbát– led technical departments, mapped destruction and displacement, and managed the organizations’ building activity, shaping the very notion of humanitarianism. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that modern definitions about space and citizenship emerged from these projects and debates, and, thus, provide a critical window into understanding today’s relation between humanitarianism, displacement, and architecture.

The following book chapters, articles and conference papers emerged from this work:

2021. Architects, Humanitarian Experts, and the American Red Cross, 1910-1920

Paper Presentation in GUD Design Network Experts, Export, and the Entanglements of Global Planning   Workshop and conference organized by Filippo De Dominicis and Ines Tolic, University of

[link to proceedings]

2021. Agrarian Hinterlands: The Humanitarian Garden, the Self-Help House, and the Resettlement of Refugees in South Macedonia, 1923-1930.

Paper Presentation in Projective Cities, Architectural Association School of Architecture

2020. Humanitarian Relief and Confinement

Book chapter in States of Emergency: Architecture, Urbanism, and the First World War, edited by Sophie Hochhäusl and Erin Sassin (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2020).

[link to the book]

2020. Foregoing Empathy.

Essay in Expansions: 100 Responses to “How Will We Live Together?,” edited by Hashim Sarkis and Ala Tannir. (Venice: La Biennale di Venezia, 2021.)

2020. The American Red Cross Refugee City in Italy, 1918.

Paper Presentation in Divergence in Architecture Conference, Session: Materialization of Space (moderator: Todd Cronan), Atlanta, Georgia Tech, March 4–6, 2020.

[link to proceedings]

2020. Displaced, in Place and in Transit: Refugee Population in Greece and the Formation of Planning Protocols and Domestic Machines. With Platon Issaias.

Book chapter in Transient Spaces, edited by Loukia Tsafoulia and Suzan Wines (New York: City College of New York, The Spitzer School of Architecture, 2020).

[link to the book]

2018. Agrarian Visions: The League of Nations Refugee Settlement Commission in Greece (1923–1930). Paper Presentation in Modernism, Politics, Crisis at the Society of Architectural Historians/NE Conference, Boston, April 3, 2018.

2017. Popular Art, Henri Focillon, and the League of Nations.

Paper Presentation in Interdisciplinary Colloquium for Critical Study of the Built Environment, Yale University – School of Architecture, May 1, 2017

2017. Crafting Modernities: The League of Nations Committees and Exhibitions on Popular Arts.

Paper Presentation in Globalized Regionalism and Modernist Aesthetics in the Built Environment (moderators: Susanne Bauer and Eliana Sousa Santos), College Art Association, 105th Conference, February 15–18, 2017.

[link to conference]

2016. Spinning the Globe: League Nations’ Resettlement Experts after WWI

Paper Presentation in Intemezzo at Duke University ‐ Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, February 29, 2016.


Fatura Collaborative – Research & Design Practice, was founded in 2009 and is developing projects across a wide range of scales, from intimate objects and performance, to architecture, urban design and planning. We are interested in architecture as social infrastructure, in developing collective equipments, in the design of spaces of care, empathy and welfare. We design and research expanding new problematics about ecology, the domestic, everyday life and the city.



is an architect and researcher based in London. She studied architecture in Patras, Greece, and currently is a PhD candidate at the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art in London. Her research focuses on the intersections between social movements and the state apparatus, and centers around the ad-hoc infrastructures created for welfare provision during periods of crisis. She has practiced architecture in the UK and worked in the housing, healthcare, and education sectors in collaboration with public authorities and established architectural practices. Prior to London, Elisavet gained experience as an architect in Athens and Madrid.


is an architect, researcher, and educator. He studied architecture in Thessaloniki, Greece, and holds an MSc from Columbia University and a PhD from TU Delft and The City as a Project research collective. He is the director of Projective Cities MPhil programme at the Architectural Association, where he is also teaching Diploma Unit 7 with Hamed Khosravi. Previously, he has taught at the Berlage Institute (Netherlands), in the MArch Urban Design programme at the Bartlett, the RCA, Syracuse University and the University of Cyprus. His research interests explore urban design and architecture in the relation to the politics of labour, economy, law and labour struggles. He has written and lectured extensively about Greek urbanisation and the politics of urban development.


is an architect and educator, and recently joined the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art as Associate Curator. He earned his diploma of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and an SMarchS degree from MIT. Since 2009, he has been practicing as a founding member of Fatura Collaborative, an architecture and research collective. His PhD dissertation, “Architectures of the Humanitarian Front” (Yale University), explores the nexus of humanitarian organizations and architecture and their relation to conflict, displacement and the provision of shelter.


is an architect based in Lund, Sweden. He graduated in 2010 from the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens and holds an MSc in Energy Efficient and Environmental Building Design from the School of Architecture of Lund University (2015). He has practiced architecture as a freelance architect in Greece and currently in Sweden (eg. Tengbom architects), where he works on a wide range of projects including small houses, larger residential complexes as well as care, educational and industrial facilities.


graduated in 2007 from the School of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She holds the MSc in Advanced Architectural Design from GSAPP, Columbia University (2008). In June 2016, she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the Architectural Association. Her thesis dealt with the transition towards abstraction in art and architecture during the end of 19th and early 20th centuries, with an emphasis on interwar architectural modernism in Germany. Alexandra has been teaching at the AA since 2012, where she is currently a studio master in the First Year Studio of the Experimental Programme and a Programme Coordinator and Course tutor in the MArch Architecture & Urbanism (DRL) programme. She has practiced as an architect in New York and Athens.