Innovation That Matters

The pod uses prefabricated modular construction and hinged, folded panels | Photo source COPY RIGHT-HARIRI & HARIRI ARCHITECTURE

Refugee shelters that pop up at the push of a button

Architecture & Design

Looking more like luxury cabanas, these refugee shelters can be transported by flatbeds and pop up in an instant

Spotted: Global warming is expected to lead to increasing numbers and frequencies of natural disasters. This means the world will need to be ready for new types of disaster relief. Architects and designers are taking notice of this need and are creating new types of structures to cope with the need. New York-based architecture firm Hariri & Hariri has now debuted their own solution – a prefabricated folding pod that can be constructed without any hardware or tools. 

Iranian sisters Gisue and Mojgan Hariri drew on their own experience of losing a home when they designed the pod. Modelled after the Japanese art of origami, the pods arrive flat-packed and unfold instantly at the push of a button to create a 500 square-foot single-storey unit. Pods can also be linked together to create larger units. 

The pod uses prefabricated modular construction and hinged, folded panels to facilitate the shipping and assembly process. The panels are constructed from glass and Equitone panels (a fibre-based cement), and create a lightweight structure that lets in light and air for natural ventilation and is very adaptable. Although designed for disaster relief, the pods can also be used as portable beach cabanas, holiday housing or temporary ‘villages’ for large events such as festivals. 

The firm emphasises both the portability and ease of use in its design, noting that: “In the middle of a hurricane you don’t have time for a screwdriver.” Gisue Hariri has also explained that the pods could help refugees in other ways, saying: “Units could be prefabricated at a basic cost and a percentage of sales used to donate pods to refugees.” 

Increasingly, architecture is responding to needs that are not purely housing-related. For example, pandemic-proof schools that bring the outdoors in with flexible spaces and floating work pods. In the future, architecture may have an even bigger role in helping us to adapt to climate change. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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