Innovative emergency shelters are good, but a world at peace is better

Published November 6th, 2016 - 17:46 GMT

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A new exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) entitled, “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter”, takes a look at how designers are creating emergency housing solutions for current humanitarian and climatological crises. It is the first time a major museum has explored the plight of the world’s homeless. The show will be on view until January 22.

United Nations figures suggest that 67.2 million individuals worldwide are currently refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced. These people need a specific kind of shelter that can be rapidly deployed and easily assembled with basic tools and labor skills.

Temporary shelters are a first step in refugee recovery, with potential to provide security, and restore self-sufficiency and dignity. Here are some examples that employ different technologies to tackle temporary displacement, but they don't always hit their mark. Sure we need innovation in design, but what we really need are effective strategies to reduce the number of people who need shelter.

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Some history: Zataari Camp for Syrian refugees was originally fitted out with UNHCR fabric tents, meant for temporary use and unsuitable for the extreme desert climate conditions in northeastern Jordan. Metal cabins eventually replaced them, but residents were allowed to keep the tents to repurpose or sell to other refugees within the camp.
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Image 1 of 12:  1 / 12Some history: Zataari Camp for Syrian refugees was originally fitted out with UNHCR fabric tents, meant for temporary use and unsuitable for the extreme desert climate conditions in northeastern Jordan. Metal cabins eventually replaced them, but residents were allowed to keep the tents to repurpose or sell to other refugees within the camp.

(Source: UNHCR)

Enlarge
Refugees began to manipulate and augment their living spaces, rearranging cabins and tents into micro-villages where extended families could share a private courtyard. One refugee told the MoMA research team, 'I’m a Bedouin, I know how to build tents and I refuse to live in these metal boxes.'”
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Image 2 of 12:  2 / 12Refugees began to manipulate and augment their living spaces, rearranging cabins and tents into micro-villages where extended families could share a private courtyard. One refugee told the MoMA research team, "I’m a Bedouin, I know how to build tents and I refuse to live in these metal boxes.'”

(Source: UNHCR)

Enlarge
Jordan's Azraq Refugee Camp builds on lessons learned in Zaatari. Metal caravans are sturdier than fabric tents, but are largely uninhabitable during harsh desert summers when it can reach 120°F.  Small windows provide inadequate ventilation, so people compromise security by leaving doors open for added airflow.
Reduce

Image 3 of 12:  3 / 12Jordan's Azraq Refugee Camp builds on lessons learned in Zaatari. Metal caravans are sturdier than fabric tents, but are largely uninhabitable during harsh desert summers when it can reach 120°F. Small windows provide inadequate ventilation, so people compromise security by leaving doors open for added airflow.

(Source: UNHCR)

Enlarge
IKEA and UNHCR collaborated on a solar-powered shelter, flat-packed in two boxes with hardware and tools - easy to transport and build. Solar roof panels provide electricity, which eliminates the need for kerosene lamps which have caused fatal fires in the camps. Plastic wall panels and an insulated roof make these cooler than the metal caravans.
Reduce

Image 4 of 12:  4 / 12IKEA and UNHCR collaborated on a solar-powered shelter, flat-packed in two boxes with hardware and tools - easy to transport and build. Solar roof panels provide electricity, which eliminates the need for kerosene lamps which have caused fatal fires in the camps. Plastic wall panels and an insulated roof make these cooler than the metal caravans.

(Source: UNHCR)

Enlarge
At 188 square feet, the IKEA shelter is twice as big as a UNHCR tent, and claims to sleep 5 people comfortably. But look inside the unit, and see it offers little creature comfort beyond what a canvas tent provides. Absolute absence of privacy, minimal daylighting, and no storage space. Like living in a garden shed with your four best mates.
Reduce

Image 5 of 12:  5 / 12At 188 square feet, the IKEA shelter is twice as big as a UNHCR tent, and claims to sleep 5 people comfortably. But look inside the unit, and see it offers little creature comfort beyond what a canvas tent provides. Absolute absence of privacy, minimal daylighting, and no storage space. Like living in a garden shed with your four best mates.

Enlarge
Jordanian architect Abeer Seikaly designed a lightweight yet structural fabric that expands to create enclosed space and contracts for mobility. The tent-like units, which won a 2013 Lexus Award, are gorgeously sculptural, and glow like lanterns at night. But they also provide few amenities beyond a UNHRC tent, with no additional privacy.
Reduce

Image 6 of 12:  6 / 12Jordanian architect Abeer Seikaly designed a lightweight yet structural fabric that expands to create enclosed space and contracts for mobility. The tent-like units, which won a 2013 Lexus Award, are gorgeously sculptural, and glow like lanterns at night. But they also provide few amenities beyond a UNHRC tent, with no additional privacy.

Enlarge
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban applies his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials to build high-quality, low-cost emergency shelters. His Paper Log Houses went up after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, made from paper tubes set on a foundation of old beer crates loaded with sandbags - materials easily dismantled, disposed or recycled.
Reduce

Image 7 of 12:  7 / 12Japanese architect Shigeru Ban applies his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials to build high-quality, low-cost emergency shelters. His Paper Log Houses went up after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, made from paper tubes set on a foundation of old beer crates loaded with sandbags - materials easily dismantled, disposed or recycled.

(Source: Shigeru Ban)

Enlarge
In 1982, Iranian architect Nader Khalili designed shelters that can be hand-assembled by six unskilled people in a day using materials of war (sandbags and barbed wire) for peaceful ends. Barbed wire is set between layers of sandbags to prevent them from shifting and to provide earthquake resistance.
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Image 8 of 12:  8 / 12In 1982, Iranian architect Nader Khalili designed shelters that can be hand-assembled by six unskilled people in a day using materials of war (sandbags and barbed wire) for peaceful ends. Barbed wire is set between layers of sandbags to prevent them from shifting and to provide earthquake resistance.

Enlarge
Inspired by an overturned coffee cup, Exo Units are designed to be easily transportable and can be quickly dispatched. Two people can lift the featherweight shelter, and position it in a matter of minutes. Its hollow floor can be filled with water or sand to anchor it to terra firma. Sleeps four on wall-mounted foldaway beds.
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Image 9 of 12:  9 / 12Inspired by an overturned coffee cup, Exo Units are designed to be easily transportable and can be quickly dispatched. Two people can lift the featherweight shelter, and position it in a matter of minutes. Its hollow floor can be filled with water or sand to anchor it to terra firma. Sleeps four on wall-mounted foldaway beds.

Enlarge
Humanihut is an Aussie start-up that designed an emergency shelter that can be set up in five minutes. It includes showers, toilets, electricity, and laundry facilities. A standard shipping container can hold 16 of the collapsible units, allowing easy transport. A “village” of the fully insulated huts can be built in a matter of hours.
Reduce

Image 10 of 12:  10 / 12Humanihut is an Aussie start-up that designed an emergency shelter that can be set up in five minutes. It includes showers, toilets, electricity, and laundry facilities. A standard shipping container can hold 16 of the collapsible units, allowing easy transport. A “village” of the fully insulated huts can be built in a matter of hours.

Enlarge
TYIN tegnestue is a non-profit organization using architecture to deliver humanitarian aid. In 2009, they created these bamboo 'dormitory' shelters to house 24 children in a Thai orphanage. The private sleeping units were named 'Soe Ker Tie Hias', or Butterfly Houses due to their soaring wings that allow ventilation and protection from rain.
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Image 11 of 12:  11 / 12TYIN tegnestue is a non-profit organization using architecture to deliver humanitarian aid. In 2009, they created these bamboo "dormitory" shelters to house 24 children in a Thai orphanage. The private sleeping units were named "Soe Ker Tie Hias", or Butterfly Houses due to their soaring wings that allow ventilation and protection from rain.

Enlarge
A shelter crisis is unfolding, with millions struggling in substandard housing. UNHCR's 'Nobody Left Outside' is a global campaign to raise funds to shelter two million people who have been forced to flee their homes, but the project is woefully short of its fundraising goals. Visit their website and be a part of the fix. Winter is coming.
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Image 12 of 12:  12 / 12A shelter crisis is unfolding, with millions struggling in substandard housing. UNHCR's "Nobody Left Outside" is a global campaign to raise funds to shelter two million people who have been forced to flee their homes, but the project is woefully short of its fundraising goals. Visit their website and be a part of the fix. Winter is coming.

(Source: UNHCR)

Enlarge

1

Some history: Zataari Camp for Syrian refugees was originally fitted out with UNHCR fabric tents, meant for temporary use and unsuitable for the extreme desert climate conditions in northeastern Jordan. Metal cabins eventually replaced them, but residents were allowed to keep the tents to repurpose or sell to other refugees within the camp.

Image 1 of 12Some history: Zataari Camp for Syrian refugees was originally fitted out with UNHCR fabric tents, meant for temporary use and unsuitable for the extreme desert climate conditions in northeastern Jordan. Metal cabins eventually replaced them, but residents were allowed to keep the tents to repurpose or sell to other refugees within the camp.

(Source: UNHCR)

2

Refugees began to manipulate and augment their living spaces, rearranging cabins and tents into micro-villages where extended families could share a private courtyard. One refugee told the MoMA research team, 'I’m a Bedouin, I know how to build tents and I refuse to live in these metal boxes.'”

Image 2 of 12Refugees began to manipulate and augment their living spaces, rearranging cabins and tents into micro-villages where extended families could share a private courtyard. One refugee told the MoMA research team, "I’m a Bedouin, I know how to build tents and I refuse to live in these metal boxes.'”

(Source: UNHCR)

3

Jordan's Azraq Refugee Camp builds on lessons learned in Zaatari. Metal caravans are sturdier than fabric tents, but are largely uninhabitable during harsh desert summers when it can reach 120°F.  Small windows provide inadequate ventilation, so people compromise security by leaving doors open for added airflow.

Image 3 of 12Jordan's Azraq Refugee Camp builds on lessons learned in Zaatari. Metal caravans are sturdier than fabric tents, but are largely uninhabitable during harsh desert summers when it can reach 120°F. Small windows provide inadequate ventilation, so people compromise security by leaving doors open for added airflow.

(Source: UNHCR)

4

IKEA and UNHCR collaborated on a solar-powered shelter, flat-packed in two boxes with hardware and tools - easy to transport and build. Solar roof panels provide electricity, which eliminates the need for kerosene lamps which have caused fatal fires in the camps. Plastic wall panels and an insulated roof make these cooler than the metal caravans.

Image 4 of 12IKEA and UNHCR collaborated on a solar-powered shelter, flat-packed in two boxes with hardware and tools - easy to transport and build. Solar roof panels provide electricity, which eliminates the need for kerosene lamps which have caused fatal fires in the camps. Plastic wall panels and an insulated roof make these cooler than the metal caravans.

(Source: UNHCR)

5

At 188 square feet, the IKEA shelter is twice as big as a UNHCR tent, and claims to sleep 5 people comfortably. But look inside the unit, and see it offers little creature comfort beyond what a canvas tent provides. Absolute absence of privacy, minimal daylighting, and no storage space. Like living in a garden shed with your four best mates.

Image 5 of 12At 188 square feet, the IKEA shelter is twice as big as a UNHCR tent, and claims to sleep 5 people comfortably. But look inside the unit, and see it offers little creature comfort beyond what a canvas tent provides. Absolute absence of privacy, minimal daylighting, and no storage space. Like living in a garden shed with your four best mates.

6

Jordanian architect Abeer Seikaly designed a lightweight yet structural fabric that expands to create enclosed space and contracts for mobility. The tent-like units, which won a 2013 Lexus Award, are gorgeously sculptural, and glow like lanterns at night. But they also provide few amenities beyond a UNHRC tent, with no additional privacy.

Image 6 of 12Jordanian architect Abeer Seikaly designed a lightweight yet structural fabric that expands to create enclosed space and contracts for mobility. The tent-like units, which won a 2013 Lexus Award, are gorgeously sculptural, and glow like lanterns at night. But they also provide few amenities beyond a UNHRC tent, with no additional privacy.

7

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban applies his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials to build high-quality, low-cost emergency shelters. His Paper Log Houses went up after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, made from paper tubes set on a foundation of old beer crates loaded with sandbags - materials easily dismantled, disposed or recycled.

Image 7 of 12Japanese architect Shigeru Ban applies his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials to build high-quality, low-cost emergency shelters. His Paper Log Houses went up after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, made from paper tubes set on a foundation of old beer crates loaded with sandbags - materials easily dismantled, disposed or recycled.

(Source: Shigeru Ban)

8

In 1982, Iranian architect Nader Khalili designed shelters that can be hand-assembled by six unskilled people in a day using materials of war (sandbags and barbed wire) for peaceful ends. Barbed wire is set between layers of sandbags to prevent them from shifting and to provide earthquake resistance.

Image 8 of 12In 1982, Iranian architect Nader Khalili designed shelters that can be hand-assembled by six unskilled people in a day using materials of war (sandbags and barbed wire) for peaceful ends. Barbed wire is set between layers of sandbags to prevent them from shifting and to provide earthquake resistance.

9

Inspired by an overturned coffee cup, Exo Units are designed to be easily transportable and can be quickly dispatched. Two people can lift the featherweight shelter, and position it in a matter of minutes. Its hollow floor can be filled with water or sand to anchor it to terra firma. Sleeps four on wall-mounted foldaway beds.

Image 9 of 12Inspired by an overturned coffee cup, Exo Units are designed to be easily transportable and can be quickly dispatched. Two people can lift the featherweight shelter, and position it in a matter of minutes. Its hollow floor can be filled with water or sand to anchor it to terra firma. Sleeps four on wall-mounted foldaway beds.

10

Humanihut is an Aussie start-up that designed an emergency shelter that can be set up in five minutes. It includes showers, toilets, electricity, and laundry facilities. A standard shipping container can hold 16 of the collapsible units, allowing easy transport. A “village” of the fully insulated huts can be built in a matter of hours.

Image 10 of 12Humanihut is an Aussie start-up that designed an emergency shelter that can be set up in five minutes. It includes showers, toilets, electricity, and laundry facilities. A standard shipping container can hold 16 of the collapsible units, allowing easy transport. A “village” of the fully insulated huts can be built in a matter of hours.

11

TYIN tegnestue is a non-profit organization using architecture to deliver humanitarian aid. In 2009, they created these bamboo 'dormitory' shelters to house 24 children in a Thai orphanage. The private sleeping units were named 'Soe Ker Tie Hias', or Butterfly Houses due to their soaring wings that allow ventilation and protection from rain.

Image 11 of 12TYIN tegnestue is a non-profit organization using architecture to deliver humanitarian aid. In 2009, they created these bamboo "dormitory" shelters to house 24 children in a Thai orphanage. The private sleeping units were named "Soe Ker Tie Hias", or Butterfly Houses due to their soaring wings that allow ventilation and protection from rain.

12

A shelter crisis is unfolding, with millions struggling in substandard housing. UNHCR's 'Nobody Left Outside' is a global campaign to raise funds to shelter two million people who have been forced to flee their homes, but the project is woefully short of its fundraising goals. Visit their website and be a part of the fix. Winter is coming.

Image 12 of 12A shelter crisis is unfolding, with millions struggling in substandard housing. UNHCR's "Nobody Left Outside" is a global campaign to raise funds to shelter two million people who have been forced to flee their homes, but the project is woefully short of its fundraising goals. Visit their website and be a part of the fix. Winter is coming.

(Source: UNHCR)

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