Design Knowledge Intermediary
SHELTER 48: Eleven’s 7th international ideas and design competition.

Deadline: Closed

Emergency Life-Support Design

For this challenge, we focus our attention on natural disasters by looking at the concept and definition of shelter in their immediate aftermath and by posing the question: how can architecture and design help protect, shelter and save lives when they strike?
Natural disasters kill thousands of people a year. Typically, the biggest killer isn’t the actual event itself, but the hours following the event. Often, it is the lack of adequate shelter – a basic human need to survival – coupled with the obliteration of infrastructures and services and the lack of provisions, which make the 48 hours post-disaster a critical zone for the victims: a determining factor between survival or death.
This is where our competition steps in as we ask you to design ‘Shelter 48’: a guardian angel, a protector, and an emergency life-support system to be deployed rapidly after natural disasters strike.
There are no right or wrong answers, just endless possibilities in the pursuit of excellence and design-led innovation. Let your creativity go wild and enjoy the process! We really look forward to seeing your fantastic proposals.
Natural Disasters Today
Our climate is changing fast and our planet is reacting.
Whether you believe climate change is man-made or purely part of a natural cycle, there is no denying the growing rate in which natural disasters occur today.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, landslides, avalanches, volcanic eruptions and violent storms, are natural phenomena which we - as humans - have very little say or control over.
These affect developed and developing countries alike and occur throughout the whole spectrum of climatic regions.
In the last decade alone, their frequency has consistently and exponentially increased around the globe. Parallel to the rising number of disasters, we are experiencing an increase in the severity and magnitude of the events themselves. Not only are natural disasters hitting us more frequently but they are also growing more violent.
These two factors combined are responsible for a peak in post-disaster human displacement and rising death tolls.
48hrs: The Critical Zone
Every year, thousands of people around the world die in natural disasters.
When a disaster strikes, the event itself causes fatalities but what is perhaps more surprising is what happens next.Statistics reveal that in most cases, the majority of deaths caused by a natural disaster occur in its aftermath, not in the event itself. More specifically, the 48 hours after a calamity are the most crucial, responsible for the highest amount of fatalities.
For many survivors, 48 hours is what stands between life and death.
Time is Life
Within this critical time span, survivors are particularly vulnerable. This is due to a breakdown in infrastructure, resulting in a lack of amenities and an overshadowing of basic needs conducive to survival. Unfortunately, however, these 48 hours are often needed to fully understand the magnitude of the event, clear routes to affected areas, and organize and implement a full-scale rescue response.
To make matters worse, it is not uncommon for an affected area to be threatened by secondary events (i.e. a major earthquake can trigger tsunamis, aftershocks, landslides, fires, etc.) within this time-frame as well. For survivors - often isolated, hard to reach and stranded in a volatile environment filled with dangers - the difference between life and death is purely a matter of time.
Eventually, rescue and aid arrive... but is it too late?
Competition Focus
Contemporary natural disaster shelters are underwhelmingly inadequate to fit their purpose. They often comprise of a simple tensile canopy which does little to support and protect the victims, their survival and wellbeing. The more specialised solutions that exist lack the ability to be transported and deployed quickly on site in traumatic contexts. This takes time, and time is critical. Furthermore, the shelters available today do little to promote the post-calamity recovery and reconstruction phases of the affected society.
As a response, we invite you to design Shelter 48: a life-support unit which can be deployed quickly and effectively in the immediate aftermath of a natural calamity, designed to save lives in the critical48 hourzone and beyond.
What does the ultimate disaster relief shelter look like and how can it be made readily available in the aftermath the event, securing the lives of victims in these crucial hours?
We encourage participants to think outside the box and come up with new ways of dealing with calamities around the world and, in doing so, setting a new standard for post-disaster action and shelter. In designing your prototype, we encourage you to engage with the following key concepts, seen as stimuli for ideas which can be expanded on, edited and added to:
Logistics – how will you get your shelter to the disaster?
Assembly – how is your design built on site?
Relation to Ground – how does your shelter relate to unpredictable and dangerous new conditions?
Specialist vs Generalist – are you designing for one particular disaster context (i.e. type of disaster or climatic region) or is your proposal a one-solution-fits-all shelter?
Adaptability – how can your design adapt to changing needs of use and adapt to shifting surroundings?
Capacity – for how many people is it for?
Program – what does your shelter provide?
Resilience – how strong is your design and how can it guarantee survival for the user?
Materials – what is made from?
Future – what happens to your shelter when it is not needed anymore?


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