Reflecting on Billionbricks’ vision of providing appropriate solutions for the homeless, I am reminded of my undergraduate students’ current work in their first year design studio. Here is a small description of the studio’s objectives:

The emphasis of the studio is for the students to understand space using human scale. They are discovering fundamental architectural concepts about scale, proportions and volume by mapping human activities through drawings & models. The final task is to design a small scale space such as  a guard room/ a tourist interpretation centre/ a stationery shop & a pakode walas stall. These designs will be illustrated through a minimum of (but not limited to) drawings (plans & sections) and wireframe models showing proposed and existing space

In hindsight, considering the minimal resources & means that shape most homeless shelters around the globe, it may have been a worthwhile challenge for my students to design one. Perhaps, BillionBricks could have gained some fresh ideas and directions from such an endeavour.

Nevertheless, it may not be that late; there is always the next semester. In the meantime it is interesting to think about the kind of issues this exercise would rake up. For eg: What kind of space would an individual need for his daily routine? Should we restrict ourselves to the bare minimum dimensions that the study of anthropometrics teaches us? Can we redefine the concept of shelter in itself? At what point does our own space- activity ‘bubble’  become a shelter?

Scratching the surface a little more, I looked at some examples of similar projects. The website below does a good job of collating a wide range of solutions:

I think this could be a good way to show the students how compact and flexible a space could be. One has to really understand & be able to manipulate the fine line between what iscramped, adequate or comfortable. On the other hand, these solutions seem too sophisticated to be implemented in India where a homeless person may not be able to afford or relate to them. How then can we come up with indegenous solutions that might appear more robust for implementation?What are the initiatives that have been done in the developing world?

© ZO_loft architecture & design. Published on June 15, 2012.

© ZO_loft architecture & design. Published on June 15, 2012.

Looking closer home, here is what I found:

Do let me know if you know of similar or better projects.I am sure we can put explore somesolutions. Put on your thinking caps and give it a try.Depending on the responses together with the consent of my co- faculty, we could formalise this into a mini “ ideas”  competition for my students and extend it to readers of this blog.

Lets hear some initial thoughts from you all.