Let it Snow

Background

With the snow falling consistently in Scotland, already it seems that most people’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ spirit is wearing thin. After last months competition looking at Delhi, we thought we could shift the focus to something a bit more local this month, in fact right to our own city. I’m already complaining about my feet being constantly cold and damp, and being able to see my breath in my flat, but what about the scores of people who are going to spend some nights sleeping rough on our city streets this month?

Although homelessness has far wider aspects to it, when most people think of a homeless person they tend to think of someone sleeping rough on the streets. Sleeping rough is a dangerous and traumatising experience; rough sleepers have an average life expectancy of just 42 years, compared with the national average of 74 for men and 79 for women, and people who sleep rough are 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

In 2001, a major report by the Scottish Executive found that in a two week period, there were as many as 500 people who had slept rough for at least one night. These figures were collected by a survey of projects and services working with homeless people across Scotland. The same report found that:

  • Over 80% of rough sleepers were male.
  • 45% were aged between 25 and 40 years.
  • 25% were under 24 years old.

The Government’s official figures for June 2010 show that 1,250 people were sleeping rough on any given night in England, but many reports claim that the actual figure is around 3 times that amount.

The Challenge

We are asking you to design for the homeless this winter. You can focus on designing for the temporary, ie. the people who will be spending just one or two nights on the streets, or the more long term ie people who will have to spend quite a while sleeping rough. Things you can consider might include warmth, security, easy mobility, low cost, and how could your idea could be distributed or implemented in Scotland’s cities.

References and Reading

http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/rough-sleeping

http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/housing_issues/get_your_housing_facts/aberdeen_city

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/es/

http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/roughsleepingcount2010

 

Winning Entries

Congratulations to Maria Batista and Alexander Hohman, who sent us the concept which our panel chose as the winner.

Here is what Maria and Alexander have to say about it…

As architectural acupuncture within the built environment the design emphasized the re-appropriation of space, specifically the re-design of the well-worn assumptions concerning the function of a component within a network of infrastructure— the light post. We calculated that by replacing five light posts in every square mile we could provide enough housing on the streets for the houseless population of Edinburgh. Intended as a statement against social inequity, we resisted the temptation to simply supply housing, instead wishing to render houselessness visible. We hoped that in seeing the condition of poverty it would generate social change rendering the design unnecessary.

The things that particularly impressed our judges were the integration and use of existing city infrastructure, the close consideration of how the units can be implemented in the city, and the daring approach. It’s true that the homeless using these units are made almost into a spectacle- beacons within the city- which is an uncomfortable thing for the city at large to live with. It is perhaps not the most achievable or economical concept we received, but it is one of a handful of entries which really stands out by making a social comment on the plight of homelessness- challenging us that it’s not a problem we should shy away from by providing a neat answer but instead a problem that we should face and feel uneasy with.

Honourable mentions

We couldn’t let these five designs pass by unappreciated, as our judges all felt that they explored very interesting aspects of the brief…

Corina S. Dumitrescu  http://cocoknotsdesigns.blogspot.com/

After a few days of looking around/researching, I have decided there is no better way of helping the homeless than through awareness:

Solutions such as jackets, tents or shelters are temporary bandages that cannot mend a deep wound in our society. The energy invested in these fast-fixes, most times turn out to be a waste of resources. That is why I am proposing a strategic use of funds to expose our neglected communities for what they really are, drawing continuous attention and funds toward the betterment of our society.

Enjoy Reality TV? Your typical winter jacket receives a webcam, streaming real-time from your local homeless community. These cameras would imply extra security, and would transform the life and stories of the homeless into reality TV. This powerful media trend would in turn attract viewers from all over the world, raising a continuous flow of awareness and funds, the main two ingredients in the abolition of homelessness.

Adam Park, a student at University of Sheffield School of Architecture.

The key idea behind the ‘emergency winter shelter’ is to adapt existing urban infrastructure that might be otherwise un(der)used during the night hours. Relatively practicable modifications using existing campervan technology could transform a bus stop into a temporary, insulated & secure place to spend the night.

Peter O’Brien from Perth, Australia

Combining the traditional park bench with short-term homeless emergency shelter, the Bench»Pod offers refuge to those in urgent need. Town Planners typically design park benches with an aim to discourage the homeless from “dossing”. The Bench»Pod challenges this approach. When open, the Bench acts as a traditional park bench; but when required, the shell rotates down neatly to create a warm, dry and safe cocoon that helps protect its occupant from the cold, unsympathetic elements.

The Pod provides security for person and possessions, a degree of privacy and modesty, and a better night’s sleep to those in desperate need. Comprising a steel frame with an 8’ long PVC bench/bed and shell, the Bench»Pod is a durable, low maintenance, affordable and humanitarian design. The Bench»Pod is not intended to be the ultimate solution; its humble yet humanitarian purpose is to help soften the pain of homelessness and to help restore dignity to those affected.

Laurence Chan from Australia & Ryoyu Kido from Japan

We believe the homeless are not powerless, they just need a place to express themselves and be free.. The meaning of abandoned structures are not lost upon us, for we see them as the homeless of our urban fabric. Instead of offering a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’, our proposal is an agent of change, where the abandoned people inhabit and colonize abandoned spaces. The spaces are re-appreciated and modified to the user’s needs, the users empower themselves through expressing and accepting their own identity. The colony however, is only part of the ‘solution’ to a wider problem of neglect and abandonment the homeless faces daily, and it would take more than such an initiative to ensure the well-being of the homeless.

Most of our assumption about the homeless are speculative, based chiefly through various media reports and personal experiences. However, the Homeless World Cup held annually serve as our main inspiration in how far the homeless can go when given a chance to shine, and the Urban Nomad Colony encapsulates the various activities that can give them this chance.

[re]shape by (G)roup
Team Members Involved: Mauricio Diaz, Corey Green, Neil Long, Thomas Sharp, Ross Ullrich
Based in Chicago, Illinois

Concept_ To create a self-sustaining network of embedded shelters within the urban fabric of a city by marrying practices of consumer advertising and with the principles of social welfare.  In this sense, a symbiotic relationship is formed between opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

Advertise_ Building on the opportunistic nature of the concept, the [re]shape design serves a dual purpose. In their compact (daytime) configuration they act as a new form of urban advertising, generating funding for their construction and continued maintenance. In the evening they unfold into a new form of urban infrastructure, providing shelter to those in need while serving to increase the visibility of the advertisement.

Transform_ Millions of pounds of PVC from billboard advertisements are dumped into landfills every year due to an inability to dispose of the material in an environmentally responsible manner.  While the virtual indestructibility of PVC may pose environmental concerns, it is extremely advantageous for those seeking temporary shelter.  Recognizing the opportunity to solve two problems with one solution, the [re]shape module re-uses billboards as its primary material for the shelter enclosure.

Shelter_ Much like the growth of the chambered nautilus, the [re]shape module progressively unfolds into differentiated chambers, accommodating a single occupant or multiple people as needed.  The vinyl and tensile structure of the chambers nest into each other during the day, compacting into anything from an unassuming billboard to a city bus stop.

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