These temporary shelters are designed with urban nomads and the homeless in mind. "Rough Sleeper Collection, Kombianzug Gatherer PK.201," © Winfried Baumann, Photo: Elmar Hahn

Artist Winfried Baumann's "Instant Housing" pieces imagine a future in which people can live comfortable nomadic urban lifestyles. "IH Shopping Cart NETTO," © Winfried Baumann, Photo: Elmar Hahn

The goal is to pack as much as possible in as little space as necessary. "WBF 240 Shelter, Wohnbehälter, fahrbar mit Haube," © Winfried Baumann, Photo: Elmar Hahn

Later this year, Baumann will be publishing a collection of these efforts in a book, appropriately called "Urban Nomads." "WBF 240-Luxury, Wohnbehälter mit Luxusausstattung," © Winfried Baumann, Photo: Elmar Hahn

Recognizing that many people, homeless or nomadic or other, choose to stay out of formal shelter systems, Baumann began designing tiny, temporary housing systems that could be packed up and carried around more than decade ago. "IH Cageman 1800 HK," © Winfried Baumann, Photo: Elmar Hahn

He replaced cardboard and newspaper mats with aluminum and PVC, then added first aid kits, whistles, multi-tools, and flashlights inside. "WBF 240 Shelter, Wohnbehälter, fahrbar mit Haube," © Winfried Baumann, Photo: Elmar Hahn

Baumann realized that street dwellers often bumped up against the law, but didn't necessarily know what codes they were accused of violating. As a result, he's working with a legal advisor to develop a small "know your rights" booklet as well.

2014-03-06

Co.Exist

The Mobile Homeless Shelter Of The Future

These "instant houses" aren't just for people without a place to sleep. They're for a future in which city dwellers want the smallest and most mobile houses possible.

Winfried Baumann's creations look like some sort of art joke. Over the past 13 years, the German artist has affixed solar panels and laptop trays to shopping carts, stuffed padded mattresses in what appear to be hot dog carts, and created what can only be described as a suitcase for your body. But these aren't any sort of parody: Built in response to a set of real needs for those living on the street, Baumann's "Instant Housing" pieces imagine a future in which those who want to can comfortably live nomadic urban lifestyles, with as much as possible packed in as little space as necessary.

Later this year, Baumann will be publishing a collection of these efforts in a book, appropriately called Urban Nomads. Recognizing that many people, homeless or nomadic or other, choose to stay out of formal shelter systems, Baumann began designing tiny, temporary housing systems that could be packed up and carried around. He replaced cardboard and newspaper mats with aluminum and PVC, then added first aid kits, whistles, multi-tools, and flashlights inside.

"WBF 240-Luxury, Wohnbehälter mit Luxusausstattung," © Winfried Baumann. Photo: Elmar Hahn.

After testing the designs himself, Baumann asked homeless magazine sellers for advice.

"On one hand, there are so many homeless people and urban nomads out there, who make use of the public and private facilities. On the other hand, there are plenty of really strong individualists, either homeless people or urban nomads, who would never make use of those facilities," Baumann wrote in an email. "So therefore I think it is really important that the offers for help should be individual and different."

After creating several pieces for homeless individuals, Baumann realized that street dwellers often bumped up against the law, but didn't necessarily know what codes they were accused of violating. As a result, he's working with a legal advisor to develop a small "know your rights" booklet for the homeless to be distributed later this year.

"IH Cageman 1800 HK," © Winfried Baumann. Photo: Elmar Hahn.

But Baumann's work doesn't just reflect the needs of the homeless. Micro-housing initiatives have sprung up in cities all over the world in response to rapid urbanization and housing demands of students and tech workers. Engineering the most functionality jam-packed (yet minimalist) existence has become something of an international contest, perhaps even a new kind of status symbol for the design-conscious.

The irony of relatively affluent urbanites seeking out these kinds of living situations isn't lost on Baumann.

"The future of the cities will be even more shaped by smaller and more flexible living spaces," he writes. "At the same time my objects display that the new and upcoming nomadism and the gain of independence is only possible if you are losing a lot of life quality."

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6 Comments

  • Totally agree with Slavin- saw this reposted on another site and my mind went right to Wodiczko's work!

    Unsure of what I think of this derivative - it seems that, compared to Wodiczko's works which were explicitly produced as one-offs, these are meant for mass production. Wodiczko's logic behind making his unable to be absorbed by a system of mass production was that industrialized mass production was what enabled gentrification that lead to the homelessness phenomenon in the 1980's. Mass production was one element that allowed for the uprising of booming global companies which could swoop into cities and setup hq; thus the highest paid individuals displaced original dwellers of the urban space.

    Curious as to how the ethics stand insomuch as enabling the very systems that have created such iniquity in the first place? How has the urban situation changed since the 1980s? Does this iteration aid the problem? Does it negotiate the trap of posing as a slick design "solution"?

  • And just noticed who the writer is. Apologies, Sydney. This is deeply derivative work, (which is fine!) but to hold it to light without a nod to its thoughtful and important history is a drag.

  • Martin Cavanaugh Porter

    Yeah, that's a pretty distopian look into the future- no matter how pretty the boxes- at the end of the day they are just cages, boxes. Depressing.

  • Stephen Bosio

    A big step towards bringing people back from the edge is helping them have a space to call their own. Part of the reason a lot of problems with structured shelters and homes are that there's strict rules about drug use, and people aren't always ready to be off the street. Giving a person some kind of shelter, alleviate their situation, and then keeping up with them, can be an important process to bringing some of those that are far gone, back.