Architecture Global Aid
Architects & Designers
Architecture Global Aid

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Postdisaster, refugees may find shelter, food and water. But onsite research by Architectural Global Aid (AGA) — made up of architects Andrea Gonzalez, Rike Tanaka and Yuko Ono — has found that refugees also hoped for the fulfillment of another essential need: privacy. When people have lost their home or have moved into large structures (like stadiums or auditoriums), they have few opportunities for personal space. So, the team at AGA sought out a private, practical housing solution for disaster relief.As with the relief structures of 2014 Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban (his latest use Coke crates), AGA wanted something affordable and immediately useful. “The tsunami and Fukushima explosion were a big shock,” Gonzalez says. “We felt that theoretical solutions were not enough in that case. We decided to organize a fundraising campaign and build as soon as possible.” With the fundraising the group focused on writing and publishing articles on disaster relief, lecturing around the world and, more tangibly, building their wooden Origami Houses, which they distributed to schools in Tokyo and northern Japan.“The houses,” Gonzalez says, “are an alternative to sleeping without a ceiling right after a disaster destroys a city. They provide minimum shelter for a few days until the rescue teams arrive.” The houses are colorful (as in the first photo), waterproof and buoyant. They can be used inside another structure or outdoors and after use can be stored until another disaster strikes. In a water-related crisis, locating the boxes is easier because of the bright colors and their ability to float (they can also double as rafts). When not in use, each can be stored in a box that’s about 5 by 6 feet (1½ by 2 meters) that can be used as a table.After a disaster hits, the shelters can be pieced together like life-sized origami, making a small, private shelter. They have about 106 cubic feet (3 cubic meters) of space, and AGA estimates that four adults or up to 10 children can fit inside. Each shelter has a door and a window, and both openings can close for privacy.As with every disaster, there are uncontrollable variables, like difficulty locating the boxes in the wash of rubbish (or, worse yet, being destroyed in the disaster). But despite the issues, the design and preliminary distribution of the Origami Houses show that they are solutions to help alleviate immediate loss, which, AGA believes, makes them a worthy effort. “Sometimes,” Gonzalez says, “urgencies like tsunamis or earthquakes need fast and effective solutions.”
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