ICFF is a source of inspiration whether you go to collect carpet samples, to show off your revolutionary new line of blond bentwood furniture, or to leave fingerprints all over Tom Dixon's gleaming display and aspirations of future wealth. Among the sconces and recliners, I was thrilled to see one project that paired the show-standard stylish ambition with a dream of worldly good. Back in Booth 1376, one plywood project stood out bulkily from the crowd. "Out of Failure" is the product of a University of Cincinnati capstone studio course, aimed at designing a better disaster relief shelter.
In cases of emergency, there is often a long, painful gap between the event and the arrival of a FEMA relief trailer. Filling the gap is a vital issue for the health and sanity of affected populations, and most interim options are both lackluster and relied on for much longer than intended. Using Haiti as a test case, students aimed to create a cheaply produced, easily constructed, permanent-feeling structure that could house six people with dignity, AND meet the varied needs of daily life in the region. They did a swell job.
The resulting structure is made entirely from CNC-routed 1”-plywood, coupled by friction fitting joints and simple bolts. The design packs flat, and takes just a handful of people and the most basic tools to assemble. While modular designs are hip as shit, in this type of constrained environment it's absolutely necessary. Beds can double as tables, an easy switcheroo, but when not in use, they can also hang low profile from the walls. With just a small tweak, the table legs become hooks for easy storage. The walls and doors are easily moved and removed, and there's a (regionally required) porch, for stooping or getting some vital private space. Currently displayed with a Tyvek skin, the students I chatted with hoped to find a more lasting (read: less tearable) solution, since "temporary" housing is often in use for years on end.
Disaster relief is usually needed as a result of some type of system failure, but this project looks at how we can pick up the slack and work harder to help better. Engaging in blatant commodity fetishism and wild trend speculation are the primary pastimes at ICFF, but this project was a refreshing reminder of the impactful outcomes of good design.