February 2017

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Designing Shelter

Designing for Disaster
This housing development on wetlands in Galveston Bay, Texas, is vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surge as well as subsidence caused by pumping out oil, gas, and water from underground; 2007.
Courtesy of the photographer, Alex S. MacLean; www.alexmaclean.com

Food, water, clothing, shelter. These are the basic necessities that all human beings require after enduring a natural disaster. All four have their own particular implementation challenges, but the shelter can be especially difficult.
The ideal post disaster shelter is inexpensive to construct, uses materials that are easy to assemble by unskilled labor, easy to transport both locally and internationally (if not made of local materials), durable, securable, site appropriate, culturally sensitive. Most importantly its design strives to create a sense of home and safety in the most chaotic and stressful of circumstances.

However, in the rush to provide aid after a natural disaster event the good intentions of humanitarians, architects, and designers in producing shelter that meets these criteria are overwhelmed by the urgency of the situation, resulting in many well intentioned failures. For every successful post disaster housing solution, such as Shigeru Ban's paper tube housing, there have been many projects which degenerate into sub-standard living conditions or produce complicated and impractical designs, which never get used and waste time and precious resources.
On July 20, the Museum presents The Designing for Disaster lecture series’ final program, Sheltering Lives. This program is generously supported and produced in partnership with The American Red Cross. As was the case for the previous program in the series, International Urban Disaster Resilience, the program takes advantage of the flexibility of occurring outside the confines of the exhibition to focus on international disaster related issues rather than domestic ones.

The program will convene a panel of experts to discuss the latest developments in post disaster shelter housing. The panel will address the issue of international post disaster shelter from both a structural design angle and a planning and implementation standpoint, focusing on best practices for individual shelter design as well as site design and community -based planning techniques. 

The panelists consider how new building material technologies can be applied to temporary shelters in a practical way to both provide the most ideal shelters for a given post disaster scenario. During this they will tackle the questions:

  • How can temporary shelters be designed for residents to live in their neighborhood or communities for months or even years after a major disaster while their homes undergo repairs or are rebuilt?
  • How can temporary shelters be designed for efficient deployment in urban areas where space is at a premium?
  • What can be learned from the site design and management of temporary communities and applied to rebuilt permanent neighborhoods?
  • How can temporary shelters be designed to form the building blocks of long-term community resilience?

For more program information and to register, visit the Museum’s calendar. This program complements the exhibition Designing for Disaster, which is open to attendees before the discussion.

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