6 Ways Architecture is Dealing With Emergency Shelter Design
6 Ways Architecture is Dealing With Emergency Shelter Design

People are still living without adequate housing. In fact, according to the United Nations global survey, there were approximately 100 million homeless people around the world. The number of homeless people increases every day, and one of the main challenges is to provide them with some housing solution.

A vast majority of the disadvantaged cannot find nor pursue the opportunity to get a house, often because the houses and apartments are costly to rent and buy. Fortunately, some architects decided to step in and solve the homeless crisis. The innovative design and their creative ideas are definitely worth your time.

Below, you will find six ways architecture is dealing with emergency shelter design.

Why Readdress the Emergency Shelter Design?

Emergency shelters have two purposes. One is to protect homeless people from the elements. And, the other is to provide them with a safe place where they can spend a few nights. Unfortunately, the demand for emergency shelters outweighs the supply. This is not the only problem homeless people face every day.

Besides being few in numbers, emergency shelters are also poorly designed. They resemble an emergency hospital ward in the field or a prison. In fact, they don’t have anything in common with what we call home or a safe place.

The homeless people are often experiencing instability and anxiety, and spending time in poorly designed emergency shelters doesn’t resolve these emotions. It only makes them even harder to cope with. For this reason, we have to readdress the emergency shelter design. Some architects already did. Here are some of their ideas.


Thanks to architect Xavier Van der Stappen, homeless people in Brussels can benefit from the ORIG-GAMI project. The architect in question came to the idea to design an emergency shelter for the homeless because the canvas tents are prohibited in Brussels. Camping on the streets and parks is strictly forbidden in this city.

The design is pretty simple, yet innovative, and slick. The architect in question decided to use cardboard to make temporary housing solutions that can be used by people living on the streets. The local cardboard factory joined the effort and donated cardboard. The architect based the design on popular Origami, making the houses easy to fold so that users can seamlessly use them.

According to BBC, every tent in this project was created by users of a provincial job rehabilitation center, which makes the entire project even more important in terms of helping people in real need.

WheelLy Recycled Homeless Shelter

The WheelLy Recycled Homeless Shelter comes as the Zo-Loft answer to the problems homeless people experience in public emergency shelters. This Italian firm came up with a rollable design everyone can use to either sleep in or transport personal belongings. WheelLy's design is rooted in the wheel-shaped aluminum frame.

This frame can be easily expanded into a tent. Since it is rollable, users can move it around and transport it very quickly. It also comes with a cloth bag with a 250-pound capacity. Users can expand it halfway through to make a comfortable chair out of it. When it is fully expanded, it becomes a suitable place for sleeping.

The expandable bags are made from recyclable or recycled materials. A fully opened WheelLy is 11 feet long, and it can be connected to other “WheelLys” with ease. It promotes the connected nomadic community.


“paraSite” is one of the first parasitic architecture projects the world has seen. It was presented to the public in 2005 at MoMA. The parasitic architecture leverages the existing structures. It practically latches onto them and provides emergency shelter at a very low cost.

“paraSite” is interesting because it uses an inflatable design that allows shelters to be easily attached to the exterior of any building without compromising its structure. It is designed to harness the warmth of the air that exits the building’s vent. “paraSite” can also be attached to heating and Air Conditioning systems. This allows it to be used even in regions with a cold climate.

The air inflates the structure and turns it into a comfy temporary home. “paraSite” can be seen on buildings across the world, including the cities of Cambridge, Boston, and New York. Every paraSite shelter features six windows at eye level.

Homes for the Homeless

“Homes for the Homeless” is another parasitic architecture project that saw the light of the day. James Furzer designed the project. The design is innovative because it matches the exterior of the building. Since it doesn’t disrupt the visual concept, it can be implemented widely. It can be used to extend the living capacity of numerous government-owned housing sites.

“Homes for the Homeless” pods can be interconnected to make a unique community of structures that makes it look even more attractive. The pods are built from affordable materials. More importantly, those who decide to order them can choose from the variety of materials to keep the costs of manufacturing in control. Each pod features roof windows, floor doors, and ladders for easy access.

The project won the “Space for New Visions” competition meaning that it satisfies the high standards set for functionality, natural light, environmental impact, and user comfort.

3D Printed Hexagonal Modules

3D Printed Hexagonal Modules are proof that modern architects rely on and use cutting edge technologies when working on new projects. The project is the result of the hard work of Farmlab’s team. The idea was to come up with emergency shelters that can be attached to blank sidewalls on buildings. The project went live in New York City.

The interior of the pods is entirely 3D printed and can be easily mounted to vertical spaces. Since the modules are hexagonal, the entire structure attached to the scaffolding framework resembles a honeycomb. The honeycomb structure allows the most efficient use of vertical space while promoting an active community.

Pods are made from oxidized aluminum and steel. Each pod features a smart glass so that residents can enjoy great views of the city. The smart glass allows the space to be used for adverts or art installations.


A-KAMP47 is a project of famous French architect Stephane Malka. He noticed that there is a lot of unused space between buildings and above rooftops. Stephane decided to come up with a design for affordable housing that will leverage this space.

The result - A-KAMP 47 features a series of tents. Every tent comes with a camouflage-print symbolizing the society’s preference to hide the homeless as best as possible. The first installation of these tents took place in Marseille, where they found their spot in a sidewall of the local factory.

As you can see, architects are more than capable of providing solutions to the housing crisis while taking care of those who are in dire need of a place to live. All 6 solutions deliver unique answers to the challenges related to emergency shelter design.