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Marginalized communities and people facing homelessness have been the most widely impacted groups during the pandemic, though this crisis existed long before COVID-19. To support this community, Olson Kundig has partnered with non-profit Camp United We Stand to help develop an affordable and portable home for residents. Camp United We Stand envisions a world without homelessness in which communities come together to promote a better quality of life for those in need. They work closely with churches and other agencies in the northern Seattle / Shoreline area to host legal, permitted encampments on their properties, where up to 35 people experiencing homelessness can live safely. Because permits for these types of encampments are limited to 90-day periods, the residents’ housing solutions must be able to be easily disassembled, moved and reconstructed.
With parameters from Camp United We Stand, this project aims to build a shelter from commodity materials available from big box retailers while maintaining a strict $1,000 budget. The shelter will be built from plywood modules that can be constructed by one or two people with no construction experience or tools. The lightweight modular elements are predrilled and easily tied together with bolts, which also enables the structure to be easily disassembled when necessary. The plywood frame allows for use of polypropylene to create windows, doors and skylights. The windows pivot within the frames to allow for fresh air and light. The floor utilizes standard concrete deck blocks with the flexibility to adapt to different terrain. The entire structure is covered by a tarp that is attached with ropes to the frames.
Secure storage and customization was a major concern for residents of the encampment. The interior has a built-in modular bed platform that also doubles as storage. The plywood cladding allows future residents to customize and add personalization to the interior surfaces. The space is intentionally left as a blank slate so the future occupant can customize to suit their personal creative expression. During the festival, the prototype will “open up” to the public and demonstrate how the system is constructed while highlighting the Camp United We Stand mission statement.
After the festival, the prototype will be adopted by Camp United We Stand for use in their self-managed, safe, community-supported encampments. Simple instructions and a “jig” to accurately measure each building component will allow residents in the community to continue building their own structures. We envision the Homebase portable home installation as a pathway for this community to EMERGE from the pandemic; as a vehicle to engage with the local community; and as a prototype for an affordable, flexible temporary living space for people experiencing homelessness.
Additional project partners include Dowbuilt, who are assisting with fabrication + logistics, and ARUP, who are overseeing the installation’s engineering.