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Container / Shelter for Haiti by Kristen Smith

"The two biggest problems are shelter and sanitation. It’s urgent that we get people with reasonable waterproof shelter over their heads, " U.N. disaster chief John Holmes said.

The goal of this project by architect Kristen Smith is to design a disaster relief shelter that can be assembled within 48 hours. The shelter responds to the immediate needs of the people, and also be a core for permanent housing. The idea of the container/shelter is that a shipping container holding relief items is designed to become a home.

The 500 or so improvised tent camps that have sprung up across the city - some of them on precarious sites on the sides of ravines - may be here for years to come, turning into slums in a city that was already poor, run down and ringed with shantytowns. U.N. disaster chief John Holmes said.

"Please send us a tent" asked Senita Mazile, a 43-year-old living in the same camp as Vital with her three children. All her neighbours said the same.

The items needed for relief are being shipped in large shipping containers. The premise of this project is that a container will then itself become a shelter after the goods are unloaded.
"My husband and I had to sit through the rain on buckets with two children each on our laps." said Jeanne Vital, 30, camped out in the town square park in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

The container/shelter employs the economical and readily available materials and technology used to make standard shipping containers. Inexpensive sheet metal composes the panels and the majority of the structure, and the connections are made with mass-produced hardware and standard bolts and screws. Low-tech building construction allows for a quick assembly.


beatriz said...

Hi Tulio! Do you know what are the preferred shelters distributed at the moment? Is this solution one of them?
This reminds me of an article by Thomas Fisher which argues that architects should be less reactive and consistently more prepared to act in poor and disaster prone areas:

Tulio Mateo said...

Hi Beatriz:

Currently shelters distributed in Haiti are plastic sheeting tents and tarpaulins. These are the traditional emergency solutions, and while they can host up to 10 people (1) and resist winds and rain, they are still perceived as a very short-term response by beneficiaries.

Mid-term solutions (2) like the featured project are seldom considered by donors, even if they could serve in the post-catastrophe. The reason behind it is the cost of transforming the shipping container and the specialized labour required. (3)

Nevertheless, in addition to regular family shelter, shipping containers could be used as mid-term institutional infrastructure. This has been explored by some entries in the latest Spontaneous Architecture contest (4), even though these would be rare alternatives for donors like World Bank and UN which would target the long/indefinite term.

(1)Sample of Shelterbox distributed in Haiti:

(2)Mid-term solutions have been explored even in theoretical cases like NYC being struck by a cat-3 hurricane:

(3)Shipping Containers for Emergency Housing:

(4)Spontaneous Architecture February Contest - Haiti:

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