i + D - September/October 2020 - 39

Take Refuge - By Brian J. Barth

COVID Upshot?
Homeless shelters and high-density, supportive, and low-income
housing developments have become coronavirus hotspots. Not
only are people living in close proximity, but they also are more
likely to have other health issues that compromise their immune
systems and make them more vulnerable to contracting
COVID-19 than the general population. The CDC has published
guidelines for such environments, including increasing the space
between beds in shelters and installing protective barriers.
Pable says the changes so far have been of an improvisational
nature, as designers grapple with the long-term implications of
pandemic-proofing vulnerable communities. But she notes an
unexpected upshot: Some shelters have been able to transition
residents to nearby hotel rooms that are vacant due to the
decrease in travel. "This has been especially helpful for those
with mental health challenges. Organizations are reporting that
their clients are more calm, likely due to the extra space and
privacy they are experiencing," she notes. "I hope this new
evidence lays the groundwork for a reconsideration of large
shelters, as solutions that attend to smaller groups of people
are likely a better direction for supporting wellness."

BRIAN J. BARTH
is a freelance writer with a background
in environmental planning and design.
He has written for a range of publications,
from Landscape Architecture Magazine
to NewYorker.com

Finding Permanence
in a Refugee Camp
Antonin Yuji Maeno, co-founder of Amsterdam- and Paris-based Cutwork
Studio, cites a shocking stat: The average length of stay in a refugee camp
is nearly two decades. "Most people don't stay in their flat in Paris more
than seven years," he says, by way of comparison. "Building non-permanent
refugee camps doesn't make sense. We should build refugee settlements as the
beginnings of new cities."
In support of this counterintuitive concept, Cutwork has devised a low-cost,
high-design dwelling to replace the tents and dirt-floor shacks one typically
finds in temporary communities of displaced people. The Cortex Shelter, as it's
known, can be mass-produced and erected in one day by two people. "You just
add water," says Maeno. And he means that literally. The walls
of the shelter are formed by carpet impregnated with concrete. Unroll
the material over Cutwork's proprietary metal tube framing-the
lightweight pieces can be cut without special equipment or training and
snap instantly together-and spray it down. It soon hardens into a house
with a 30-year lifespan.
Sexual assault and fire are two constant dangers in tent towns, but
the Cortex Shelter is fireproof and comes with a locking door. The interior
walls are surfaced in a soothing, light-colored fabric. In the peaks of the
roof are triangular windows that open for cross ventilation on hot days.
Rock wool insulation keeps out the cold at night. In other words, it's
an actual home, which can only help to heal those caught in a refugee crisis.
"Tents are not good environmentally or economically because they need to be
replaced all the time," says Maeno. "They're also not good for the inhabitants'
wellbeing."

When designing for multiunit residences, designer
Kia Weatherspon buys in bulk whenever possible
to both keep costs down and create opportunities
for elevated materials in some areas.
(Image: Courtesy of Determined by Design)

The Cortex Shelter takes two unskilled people
one day to build and has a lifespan of 30 years.
(Image: Courtesy Cutwork)

39


http://www.NewYorker.com

i + D - September/October 2020

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