Emergency Shelter Winning Design / Nic Gonsalves + Nic Martoo

  • 10 Jun 2013
  • by
  • Cultural Installation
© Scott Burrows

Young Australian designers, Nic Gonsalves and from leading architecture firm Conrad Gargett Riddel, have won an international award for their innovative emergency shelter design for victims of natural and man-made disasters. Showcased in Brisbane’s King George Square last year and having recently toured to Melbourne’s Federation Square last month, their design provides ease of fabrication without the use mechanical tools; a place to house both occupants and their belongings; and the ability to control the level of engagement with the outside world through a flexible skin of solid, translucent and transparent shingles. More images and the designers’ description after the break.

© Scott Burrows

Natural disasters inherently cause much more than just physical damage and destruction of property to those who live in affected areas. Victims are reminded of the fragility of human existence and will endure a tough emotional recovery, facing a loss of comfort, security and control over their surrounding environment.

© Scott Burrows

The shelter has been conceived as a retreat that will return to victims a sense of control, facilitating the recovery process through its inhabitation. The core ideas behind the shelter design are: Ease of assembly without mechanical tools; Elevation above the ground plane; To provide a place for both the occupants and their belongings; The ability to control the level of engagement with the outside world; Flexibility to allow personalization and to create a sense of ownership; and the ability for transportation and reuse.

© Scott Burrows

The design employs a flat-pack solution using a simple kit of parts. The shelter is designed as a cube so that each vertical face is identical, resulting in a repetitious assembly sequence. Each face is made up of an intersecting grid of plywood members, consisting of only two repeated components. Each face is assembled through the process of notching these plywood elements. The six faces then slot together to form a cube. A timber dowel fixed by a pin threads through each edge to hold the cube together.

Courtesy of Nic Gonsalves + Nic Martoo

The shelter sits on seven supports which are assembled through a similar process of notching timber, plywood and dowelling. This creates a physical separation from the debris of potentially a surrounding disaster zone. The roof consists of a translucent plastic membrane to allow natural light in.This is tied in place to the timber dowels. The shelter is enclosed with a skin of plywood and plastic shingles. Pre-drilled holes in the horizontal members allow the shingles to be hooked onto the structure.

Courtesy of Nic Gonsalves + Nic Martoo

The flexible skin of shingles may be unhooked, rearranged and propped open, allowing the occupant to personalize the shelter according to their individual needs, and to reconfigure as conditions change over time. The occupant is able to control the level of engagement with the outside world through the arrangement of solid, translucent and transparent shingles, and the degree to which they are propped open for ventilation. This arrangement also allows the occupant to express their individuality and facilitates a sense of ownership. The shingles have been sized to be light enough that a child may assist in their hanging and arrangement. Internally, the structure becomes a wall of shelves that provide a home for salvaged belongings.

Courtesy of Nic Gonsalves + Nic Martoo

The absence of mechanical fixings means the shelter may be completely disassembled and reassembled with ease. The entire shelter uses less than a cubic metre of material and may be easily transported on a small vehicle. The intention has been to return a sense of control to the occupant, and facilitate the recovery process through the act of inhabitation.

Courtesy of Nic Gonsalves + Nic Martoo

Gonsalves and Martoo were awarded first prize in the International Award for Young Architects by the Turkish Chamber of Architects on 25 May following an international ideas competition focusing on temporary sheltering spaces.

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "Emergency Shelter Winning Design / Nic Gonsalves + Nic Martoo" 10 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=385002>


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    I would imagine in an emergency setting, security would be a priority as well, which this design doesn’t seem to consider.

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    Guessing if you have lost all your possestions & half your family – security would be pretty low on my list.

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