i + D - September/October 2020 - 36

Take Refuge - By Brian J. Barth

The golden rule of designing for such groups is to involve
them in the design process, as with Bakhita Gardens' sleeping
pods. But Pable and her colleagues have distilled a number
of other principles. First and foremost, residents need a
sense of control over their space and the ability to personalize
it and express their identity. Striking the right balance of privacy
and community is key. Excessive noise, crowding, and other
forms of stress or overstimulation must be minimized or
eliminated. Opportunities to connect with nature, even in
small ways, are paramount.
"An individual who is compromised in terms of their ability
to bear what they've experienced is not going to respond to a
space in the ways that others would," says Pable. "They may
have a distracted nature because they're concerned about
where their next meal is coming from. And they're going to be
very cautious of other people, so you've got to think carefully
about things like the orientation of furnishings. If you've been the
victim of domestic violence and you've had people come up from
behind and attack you, do you really want to sit in a chair with an
exposed back in the middle of a big room? Probably not."
Early perspective view of a proposed sleeping
pod for four women at Atlanta Mission.

"An individual who is
compromised in terms of their
ability to bear what they've
experienced is not going
to respond to a space in the
ways that others would."
- JILL PABLE,
DESIGN RESOURCES
FOR HOMELESSNESS

Perspective view of a proposed renovated supporting
housing apartment for men at Atlanta Mission.
(Image: Design Resources for Homelessness and Lindsey Slater)

(Image: Nelson Worldwide)

However, translating those principles into built projects with razor-thin budgets can be
difficult. In a big-budget project, it's easy to spend one's way to the solution of a tough
design problem. To take a budget that normally results in an oppressive, utilitarian shelter
or housing development and stretch it into a serene, inviting, soothing place to call home
requires thinking one's way to the solution of every design problem.
Take bathroom lighting, for instance, says Pable. "Typically, designers will put a recessed
down can over the sinks, but that can create really harsh shadows under your eyes and
nose, and if it's the wrong color of light, it can make you look horrible," she explains.
"Let's imagine that person has to go to an important job interview that day. They want to
perform their best, and part of that is feeling good about themselves. If we present them
with an image in the mirror that looks terrible, it's going to start to mess with their sense of
self." Her solution? Put the lighting on either side of the mirror, and make sure warm-tone
bulbs are installed. "The resident will look better when they see themselves in the mirror,"
she says, "and maybe by extension, they'll feel better about themselves. It's a matter
of thinking about the problem and empathizing with the problem, and not necessarily
spending more money."

i+D - September/October 2020



i + D - September/October 2020

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