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2010 YAF/COD Ideas Competition

Ji-Youn Kim: Shelter Woven Through Cultural and History

Ji-Youn Kim’s Woven Shelter entry, which shares first place with “Free,” creates shelter that attempts to improve upon an age-old piece of technology (the tent), but not by too much. It confronts issues of sustainability and carbon emissions by providing primitive-tech housing that reorganizes site resources without environmental impact.

Each Woven Shelter unit is composed of two elements: a string of chained doughnut-like membranes and ropes that weave through them. Both elements are made of a waterproof fabric. To build these structures, residents simply fill the doughnut chain and rope sheaths with local aggregate materials (sand, mud, straw, garbage) and weave the ropes through the doughnut membrane holes. The structure can be covered in fabric or packed with more local aggregate material, forming a tight thermal envelope. One person can assemble a shelter in a day, at a cost of $150.

The finished product has a rich, organic texture, like knotted roots or thick vines, which far surpasses the aesthetic appearance of traditional emergency shelter trailers, with their jumble of mechanical building systems ungracefully shoved into tiny shoebox spaces. Kim, a recent graduate of the New York Institute of Technology, says her design is capable of accommodating contemporary building systems like electricity, plumbing, and HVAC. But on its own, obviously, it offers none of its competitor’s contemporary functionality.

Woven Shelter offers bare bones dwelling, a clever quick-set version of the agelessly sustainable mud hut, potentially inappropriate for disaster survivors in the developed and industrialized world. But even that is a false distinction for Kim. “In a situation of emergency, for people without a home, there are no boundaries between the industrialized world and the unindustrialized world,” she says.

Furthermore, Woven Shelter forces people to at least consider the value of environmental penance in a world where climate change fueled by carbon emissions displaces thousands of people a year, mostly in the developing world. When global warming creates coastal flooding and forces people in Bangladesh from their homes, they might move into something like Woven Shelter.--ZM


Ji-Youn Kim

One Woven Shelter unit can be erected in a day by one person. Image courtesy of Ji-Youn Kim.

Woven Shelter is made up of two simple elements: a string of chained doughnut-like membranes and ropes that weave through them. Image courtesy of Ji-Youn Kim.


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