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Extreme Housing


Our strategy and goal is the immediate return of the people of Kosovo to the sites of their former homes.


Rather than create structures and sites of dislocation, we propose a system that can provide initial emergency shelter and subsequent temporary housing on the intended sites of permanent dwelling. These sites will range from damaged homes, to ruins, to cleared lots and vacant spaces of cities and villages. The emergency shelter will serve as a temporary core and scaffold during the reconstruction of these sites and, in some cases, as a permanent structure supporting the new house.


The shelter structure consists of two freestanding boxes: one for “earth” with a privy, the other for “fire and water” with a hearth, integral cistern, and shower. Both have components of structural galvanized steel frames, top and bottom pallets of glass-reinforced concrete and various side panels of fiberglass, corrugated metal, and metal ladder. Placed at a distance from one another, the two boxes frame a habitable space in between wide enough to accommodate a bed. Initially spanned by nylon cord and protected with tarps, the distance can subsequently be framed with beams supported by the pallets and protected with sliding doors. These beams can also serve as scaffolding for the construction of the house and even permanent structure for the floor above.


Disassembled into modular panels and stacked and tied for shipping, the two boxes have a total volume of 1130 mm square by 1100 mm high. The palettes form a protective top and bottom for the panels and various sheets of metal stacked between. The cistern barrel holds the steel brackets, hardware, miscellaneous components, and tools for the eventual resurrection of the permanent house. Twenty emergency shelters fit in a standard twenty-foot shipping container.

Hoisted from truck via the grips provided on the palettes and placed on the site, we estimate a team of four can erect the emergency shelter in less than six hours. The drawings above illustrate the step-by-step assembly.

Architecture is supposed to provide shelter. In early 1999, nowhere was the need for shelter more critical than in the war-torn region of Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands were without a place to live. Their homes in ruins and the infrastructure of the region collapsed, the returning population needed immediate and highly-dispersed temporary housing.

Architecture for Humanity hosted an open competition to design five-year transitional housing for the returning people of Kosovo. The competition's goal was to foster the development of housing methods that would relieve suffering and speed the transition back to a normal way of life. Architects and designers from 30 different countries responded. We received more than 200 designs. From these, a jury selected 10 finalists and 20 notable entries. The proposal from Deborah Gans and Matt Jelacic was one of these 10 finalists.




Project Details

NAME: Extreme Housing
START DATE: March 13, 1999
CURRENT PHASE: Design development
SIZE: 24 sq. ft
PROJECT TYPE: Transitional Shelter
DESIGN FIRM: Deborah Gans and Matt Jelacic