What, you might reasonably ask, is this image? This is, after all, a blog about topics arenaceous, and folded paper ornaments would, while somewhat seasonal, hardly seem relevant. But a couple of explanations: first, ever since I was a kid I have loved those two-dimensional paper ornaments that magically unfold into three-dimensional glory (I still do). Second, this is a blog about all things sandy, but, with the forthcoming arrival of the new book, it is also becoming a blog about all things arid. And third, it will continue to be a blog about things I personally find compelling, stimulating, fascinating and provocative.
Having just embarked on a new year, I’m sure that I’m not alone in hoping, despite all the depressing evidence to the contrary, that 2015 will bring improvements, innovations and creative solutions that make genuine and sustainable changes to our world. Ideas, that’s what we need, creative ideas tested and put into practice. And in a world where we now see record numbers of refugees – tens of millions, plus the “internally displaced” - it’s an idea derived from folding paper, “honeycomb” ornaments and origami, that I would like to highlight here. For this is what the image at the head of this post is about:
Jordanian-Canadian architect and designer Abeer Seikaly won the Lexus (yes, the guys who make the cars) Design Award in 2013 for her collapsible woven refugee shelters. She is now living in Amman, Jordan, well-placed to witness displaced people and the traditional variations between nomadic and sheltered lives. As she writes in her design brief (please look at that link):
Human life throughout history has developed in alternating waves of migration and settlement. The movement of people across the earth led to the discovery of new territories as well as the creation of new communities among strangers forming towns, cities, and nations. Navigating this duality between exploration and settlement, movement and stillness is a fundamental essence of what it means to be human.
In the aftermath of global wars and natural disasters, the world has witnessed the displacement of millions of people across continents. Refugees seeking shelter from disasters carry from their homes what they can and resettle in unknown lands, often starting with nothing but a tent to call home. “Weaving a home” reexamines the traditional architectural concept of tent shelters by creating a technical, structural fabric that expands to enclose and contracts for mobility while providing the comforts of contemporary life (heat, running water, electricity, storage, etc.)
These are not only portable shelters that are elegant and distinctive, but they are designed to provide electricity and water. As described in this report:
The outer solar-powered skin absorbs solar energy that is then converted into usable electricity, while the inner skin provides pockets for storage – particularly at the lower half of the shelters. And a water storage tank on the top of the tent allows people to take quick showers. Water rises to the storage tank via a thermosiphoning system and a drainage system ensures that the tent is not flooded… Well ventilated and lit, the shelter opens up in the summer and huddles down during cold winters. But most importantly, it allows refugees to have some semblance of security, some semblance of home.