If a cave is a dwelling with no doors or windows, then this is the opposite of a cave, the cave concept turned inside-out. French architect Stephane Malka has designed a kind of public-domain shelter made entirely out of up-cycled doors and windows. The whole structure is supported on scaffolding for that penthouse-apartment feel – it even has a rooftop lounge with a view.
Now, you wouldn’t want to pull this stunt in tornado country, but for most urban areas with a stable environment, shelters like these could be a viable solution to the housing problem. The United States has the embarrassing distinction of having more vacant homes than it does homeless people, a situation not made any better by the recent economic climate and the 2007 subprime mortgage fiasco. So in the U.S., we could just skip the doors and windows and make urban shelters out of houses. But until the Occupy protesters finally get through to our real estate baron overlords, we have this.
The structure does manage to look ramshackle and yet futuristic at the same time. It’s even built around a building with a green roof, so part of the second story can even have its own “front yard,” secluded from street traffic.
New ways of building affordable housing for the nomads of the cityscape have been percolating in architect’s creative minds for a while now. There’s also Micro-housing designed to be wedged between buildings. The thing all of these designs have in common is that they’re built to be free for anyone, and remain free.
Lest anyone think that this drive to find non-intrusive shelter for the homeless to be earnest hippie talk, consider that there is more to homelessness than just poverty. Shell-shocked veterans, women fleeing domestic violence, and runaway teens are all part of this demographic. So are people with mental health issues too serious to find a place in square society but not serious enough to be institutionalized. As anybody who has become familiar with the term mole people or the book Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas can tell you, these people are already out there. They’re just making do with what they have until we have better ideas.
Anyway, without the grim reality of homelessness, this is a very whimsical structural movement. Even if all you need is a place out of the rain while you wait for the bus, these makeshift shelters add some heart to the city. Who knows, while you’re in there, you might meet people from other walks of life and have conversations you never thought you’d have.
Humans lost something when we moved out of the caves.