Update: Transitional Shelter Project in Haiti / MICA

© David Lopez

When we last heard from David Lopez and his students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) they were in the process of constructing a prototype of the Transitional Shelter for Disaster Relief in .  The project started in a Design|Build studio in the Spring of 2011.  Acquiring funds to prototype the design became a challenge.  Students spent the summer and fall of 2011 completing the design and reaching out to organizations for donations and materials.  WorldwideShelters.org and Whiting Turner Contracting Company gave critical donations that made it possible to begin construction.

Follow us after the break to catch up on the status of the project.

© David Lopez

The design was developed to accommodate local needs and local engagement by the community that it would serve.  In regards to materials, the students conducted research to develop fabrication strategies of local materials to ease cost and construction.  For the prototype the students chose to skin the shelter in baby bamboo.  Students were familiar with the use of this material, as it is common to the design department, and this helped them test the ease of construction when the material was one that they were comfortable working with.  Structural sheathing, which was marine grade plywood, was put on the interior of the structural frame.  This could be painted or stained to personal tastes.  The design employed standard hinges to ease construction and material availability, as well.

© David Lopez

The exterior is divided into panels that can be swung open or closed, changing the level of privacy and ventilation as required by the owners.  It also enabled the design to feel less claustrophobic as owners could establish a visual connection with the outdoors.  This flexibility gives owners control and comfort in an environment where affairs may not be reliable and consistent, especially when these shelters are used for disaster relief.

© David Lopez

The prototype was constructed for $4,300; swapping construction grade plywood for marine grade plywood would drop costs to $2650 for a single shelter.  The compact design creates an ease of transport once it has been disassembled as well.  The disassembly process took 4.5 hours and fit in a 16 foot box truck.  The next step for the project team is to showcase the project at this year’s Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) conference in WashingtonD.C.(June 6-7, www.aidforumonline.org).  The design will be presented at the Innovation Zone of the forum on Wednesday, June 6th.

© David Lopez

The team hopes to learn more about their strategy through the forum (What did they do right?  What could they have done better?)  and hopefully find a second home for the shelter for someone in need.

Project Information:
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
Faculty:  David Lopez, AIA
Students:  Zoe Axelrod, Moulee Basumallik, Leslie Giron, Antoine Heath, Seung Min Hwang, Lisa Kaliczak, Rachel Kang, Bo Ra Kim, Kelly Marburger, John McGlew, Lorraine Nicoletta, Nick Richardson, Renee Shen, Kallie Sternburgh, Tessa Tripodi, Kurt Waters, Sol Winer
Graduate Assistants:  Timothy Hoover, Jessica Karle
Other participants:  Drew Suljak, Bridget Parlato, Sarah Chapin, Tina Pogliani, Jesus Robles.
Sponsors and Donors:  Whiting Turner Construction Company; Architecture for Humanity – Baltimore; oo-d-a.com; Worldwide Shelters.org; Hord Coplan Macht; Gutierrez Studios
Location: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Cite: "Update: Transitional Shelter Project in Haiti / MICA" 06 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=231403>
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  • Tom Peeters

    I don’t understand why people make ‘emergency shelters’ out of materials that can’t be found on site, like the bamboo, plywood and steel frame…
    You will have to ship in all the constructions materials, why make it so difficult?
    If you really want to help then you try to figure out how you can built emergency shelters with local materials, so you will benefit the locals and not overseas plywood, steel, or bamboo-industries…

    • Asbjørn Syverhuset

      I agree. And in this case it looks bad too. Good designers can make emergency shelters with better materials that looks better. It’s being done by several architects. Anyways, it’s a university project, so I hope somebody at least learned how not to do it.

  • Igor Reyes

    Bamboo is perceived as related to “voodoo” in Haiti. Its probably the worst material to use culturally in Haiti. Plywood is nowhere to be found on the island and the “standard” hinges??? Where are they standard. Sorry but this misses the point. Did anyone involved go to Haiti???

  • Lauren

    Igor, I came across this article and saw your comment. I am very interested in learning more about what you said about bamboo being perceived in Haiti as “voodoo”…could you explain that a little bit? Thanks!

    • Igor Reyes

      Sorry about the delay in my reply. They use bamboo in some type of Voodoo ceremony. I’ve never been to one but I learned about it when I suggested it.