Shapeshifting shelters for refugees in hot and cold climates

Yahya Ibraheem, Refugee Shelters, temporary shelter, grasshopper, parametric modeling, arab design, syrian refugees, JordanWith roughly 600 Syrian refugees crossing into Jordan every day, it’s no surprise that local architects are designing various housing solutions for the devastating influx. Abeer Seikaly’s collapsible woven shelter is lightweight and mobile, while Yahya Ibraheem’s shapeshifting shelters can be customized to fit a suite of climate conditions.

Ibraheem wrote his Master’s thesis for the University of Salford, Manchester about the many ways in which parametric modeling can enhance architectural design solutions of temporary shelters in disaster areas.

Yahya Ibraheem, Refugee Shelters, temporary shelter, grasshopper, parametric modeling, arab design, syrian refugees, Jordan

Using Grasshopper, Ibraheem takes the ancient method of constructing teepee-like temporary shelters out of branches or trees, cuts off the empty pyramid point, and then models a shelter with diagonal lines that are proven to be the most resilient in rough winds.

He then uses parametric modeling to determine the best possible method to connect the base joints with the roof joints in a way that creates a flexible internal space that can accommodate any number of residents. Conveniently, a design already put together for four people can be quickly altered to accommodate eight instead.

Interior partitions can create several rooms in any number of configurations designed to match the particular group of people who will inhabit them.

Related:  Collapsible woven shelters powered by the sun

Yahya Ibraheem, Refugee Shelters, temporary shelter, grasshopper, parametric modeling, arab design, syrian refugees, Jordan

Let’s say a family of seven is going to live in the shelter. They will require perhaps a separate room for a bathroom, and cooking, but will need much less privacy, in general, than a group of four single strangers. Also, a refugee in Russia will need a very different shelter than a refugee in the desert – given the different climatic conditions.

Ibraheem takes this into consideration by creating a structure that can be modeled with thicker walls for greater insulation in cooler temperatures, or longer windows shaded from the sun for shelters to be deployed where the sun beats down constantly.

Yahya Ibraheem, Refugee Shelters, temporary shelter, grasshopper, parametric modeling, arab design, syrian refugees, Jordan

Likewise, Ibraheem’s shelter is a shapeshifter: parametric modeling, according to him, allows it to become a triangle, or a rectangle or a pentagon even. And the floor sheet can be made into different shapes and sizes as well – all to accommodate the particular needs of each cluster of refugees.

While Seikaly designed a special structural fabric than allows her woven shelters to collapse for greater mobility, Ibraheem hasn’t gone into great detail about the kind of materials would be ideal for this customizable, shapeshifting structure.

Yahya Ibraheem, Refugee Shelters, temporary shelter, grasshopper, parametric modeling, arab design, syrian refugees, Jordan

But it does have a door and it does meet the Red Cross standards for refugee housing, which calls for a shelter that provides some sense of self-determination and dignity. As one reader said about an earlier post, the only thing that would make these designs better is to not need them at all.

Related: Reusable, stackable Exo emergency shelters for Syrians in need

The UNHCR logo on the rendered design does not suggest endorsement by the organization

About Tafline Laylin

As a tour leader who led “eco-friendly” camping trips throughout North America, Tafline soon realized that she was instead leaving behind a trail of gas fumes, plastic bottles and Pringles. In fact, wherever she traveled – whether it was Viet Nam or South Africa or England – it became clear how inefficiently the mandate to re-think our consumer culture is reaching the general public.Born in Iran, raised in South Africa and the United States, she currently splits her time between Africa and the Middle East.Tafline can be reached at tafline (at) greenprophet (dot) com, @teakettle22,

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