Tina Hovsepian of global architecture firm Callison was driven by the need to help homeless individuals in Los Angeles when she designed the first prototype for the "Cardborigami" shelter during her fourth year at USC's School of Architecture. Cardborigami, which has grown into a non-profit organization, provides temporary housing for the homeless as part of a process to help them gradually overcome their state of homelessness.
The Cardborigami shelter balances innovative design and functionality. The application of traditional origami techniques onto cardboard gives the shelter a beautiful form. Before its modified origami form, the shelter was originally a re-design of an Air-stream trailer. "The idea is to deploy a trailer to a disaster site where mass shelter is needed, then the trailer expands to 20 times its length and twice its width to provide instant space," Hovsepian explained over email. "The form was then revised and re-scaled to fulfill its potential as a portable alternative to transitional shelters for the urban homeless."
Hovsepian chose standard cardboard because of its durable structure and weather-resistant qualities. According to recent studies, the shelter is able to withstand high winds and is flame-retardant, but can't handle large spills without water-resistant treatment. Hovsepian said she is currently searching for viable water-proofing solutions, which has been her biggest challenge. The shelters can be recycled and replaced once they wear out after a month or two.
Hovsepian stressed that the shelters are designed to be temporary because they are the first step in a process she and the Cardborigami team developed to help homeless individuals reintegrate into society in a positive, supportive way. Through Cardborigami and the help of other organizations, they have access to finding permanent homes and job-training programs. She also added that the shelters aren't simply distributed on the streets. Instead, they are only being used on the private and secure properties of Cardborigami's partner organizations.
Cardborigami also aims to redefine society's negative perceptions of the ongoing issue. "I have had the fortune to engage in dialogue with a diverse array of homeless individuals throughout Los Angeles and Las Vegas. My observation is that there seems to be a general misconception about the homeless population which permeates our society like a powerful force—that of ignorance and denial," Hovsepian wrote.
"A general reaction I have heard often is: 'they are all addicts and they should just get a job.' The reality, however, is that each individual's story is different and the circumstances that lead to homelessness could happen to anyone. Because the individual differences among the homeless population is greatly overlooked, different approaches are not implemented effectively. Cardborigami aims to fill that gap."
To date, the project has received positive feedback and garnered international attention.
Last month, Hovsepian received a $10,000 Annenberg Grant to support Cardborigami's mission of raising awareness and bringing hope to those in need.
Cardborigami is set to implement its program in the near future at a new homeless shelter at L.A.'s Skid Row. The group also plans to eventually sell the shelter to the general public to ensure financial self-sufficiency in addition to the grants and donations the group receives.
For those in the L.A. area, Cardborigami will be assembling a few shelters at the Callison L.A. office on Aug. 14 at 4 p.m.
For more info on Cardborigami, click here or here. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter.