Monday, April 13, 2009

Feng-shui of emergency shelter?

In my research on the political economy of natural disaster reconstruction, temporary housing plays a significant role in much of the political discourse and policy implementation in the aftermath of the destruction. Pictured above is designer Ming Tang's prototype for post-earthquake shelters. He describes the project as contrasted against the 1.5 million shelter homes the Chinese government plans to construct in response to an earthquake that killed 69,000 people last year. As Tang describes it,

"The central feature of our project is the development of temporary shelter to house homeless people, a kinetic structure that exhibits features of umbrella and folded fans, the potential of arranging themselves into variety of contexts and living requirements....a self reconstructive structure for instant installations, which, according to the changing internal requirements and site topography, can produce potentially infinite scenarios. The Folded House is transported to site and modified by the social, economic and cultural requirements of the user."

The Chinese equivalent of FEMA trailers. The design remains in the mind of its creator, and part and parcel with all urban designers, there are Utopian depictions of the model in use (see below). So far however, these structures have yet to be implemented by either by government or purchased for production by a private company.

Aesthetically, these emergency shelters please me in a "crouching spider" sort of way. Aside from the vast amount of waste that would result from government subsidization of this scheme, there are two potential upshots here. First, the technology of these housing units has a built-in expectation of the temporary nature of emergency housing. Second, the Folding House is subversively individualistic in design and suggested implementation. Plus, its as easy as origami.

(Hat tip to Kyle at


Justin M Ross said...

I will be sure to throw this example in the face of the next person who tells me that capitalism encourages materialism.

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