Gimme Shelter

They may fulminate against each other’s theories, but gathered around a dinner table, I’m sure Max-Neef, Maslow, Gough and Doyle would agree, that every human being in the world NEEDS shelter. Without it, things get sick, dysfunctional and eventually expire.

But for the growing population of homeless people around the world, shelter is a luxury. And for this reason we wanted to show exactly how necessary intelligent design is in our world.

First, let’s look at the Homeless Haven. A park bench by day and, literally, a pop-up shelter by night. This concept comes from designers Ke Wan, Xiaohua Ma, Xing Guo & Qingxiang Zhu. The clever thinking in this design is the hinge structure which enables the seat to be pulled upwards, much like a concertina, creating a shelter from the elements. Simple. However, the potential problem with this concept, may be getting the nighttime dwellers out again so that it can go back to it’s other function of park bench!


This is why Cardborigami is so striking in its practicallity . [Kard-bor-rigami] is both a design piece and an NPO, which developed from a design idea, originated at CallisonRTKL, a global architectural / engineering / design firm.
The simple ingeniousness of Cardborigami is that it has taken something which the homeless have already tried and tested and know work, and made it better. The cardboard box. This temporary home is foldable, portable and easily transported by one person. It opens and closes in 1 minute and is water-resistant, recyclable and flame-retardant.


And then there is the ‘Sheltersuit’. This example of recycling is one of the most useful I’ve come across. Dutch Designer, Bas Timmer, turns festival tents into “Sheltersuits” for the homeless.
The idea here is to give old abandoned tents, new life as weather-resistant coats that convert into sleeping bags for the homeless. I love this idea, because like Cardborigami, there is a sense of ownership as well retaining mobility. Timmer and his business partner, Alexander de Groot, are aided by a team of Syrian refugees in the production of the suits.
The sleeping bags are both mobile and durable and can be detached from the main jacket and stored in a waterproof tote, making it easy for the homeless to carry around during the day. At sundown, the sleeping bag can be reattached via zippers, allowing a more comfortable night’s rest.


And we’d like to end of with an example, which is more awe-inspiring and has a less desperate slant to homelessness – the fossil-fuel-free houseboat.
This innovation by Tshepo Mokholo, architect-turned-designer, of which the goal is to bring about inner-city change through better design. Tshepo has imagined a post-apocalyptic, fossil-fuel-free houseboat for a future nomadic labourer who might travel by river to the city he or she works in and return home for the weekend to be with their family.
The impressive element to this design is the propulsion system imagined by Mokholo which is what would mobilise the houseboat in the absence of any oil or petrol. To read more about this go to


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