HELP in a Disaster

Hurricane Katrina showed us how little attention individuals,
agencies, and governments pay to the issue of transition housing
until a crisis is at hand. This lack of advance planning results in
dismal solutions like temporary trailer parks, even though a
plethora of innovative options for disaster-relief housing are
there for the implementing.

Spurred on by the horrific images of the damage inflicted by
Katrina (and, later, Hurricane Wilma), architect Carib Daniel
Martin and builder Rob Bragan took on the challenge of developing
disaster-relief housing that would not only shelter the displaced
but also provide them with a real sense of home. As Martin
explains, ‘We thought it was time to once again consider the role
of architecture within our social and cultural framework as well as
the potential for technology and industrialization to better the
world.’ In September 2005 the pair designed and built (with the
help of several volunteers) the Housing Every Last Person (HELP)
house prototype. Just 8 feet by 12 feet, the HELP house squeezes
into its comfy quarters two sleeping areas, a full kitchen and
eating area, and a bathroom.

Key to the tiny structure’s success is the ability to transform
its main living space from a lounge to a dining room to a bedroom
by utilizing common elements like a sleeper sofa and enough hinges
to help hide space-consuming items like a bunk bed and a kitchen
table. With a nod to Southern vernacular architecture, Martin and
Bragan decided to include a small front porch, thereby providing
space for a welcome mat for future residents — and for the entire
recovering neighborhood.

Reprinted from Dwell (Feb./March 2006).
Subscriptions: $24/yr. (9 issues) from Box 5100, Harlan, IA 51593;
www.dwellmag.com.

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