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Can Refugee Shelters be Beautiful, Functional, and Portable? One Designer's Award-Winning Answer.

A Jordanian-Canadian architect and designer has created a design for portable, collapsible shelters that generate power from the sun for displaced refugees world-wide. 


For the more than 40 million displaced people worldwide, suitable, portable and sustainable shelter is in short supply. That's why architect and designer Abeer Seikaly designed a collapsible woven fabric dwelling powered by the sun, winning the prestigious Lexus Design Award in 2012 for her inspired idea.

"The movement of people across the earth led to the discovery of new territories as well as the creation of new communities among strangers forming towns, cities and nations," stated Seikaly. "Navigating this duality between exploration and settlement, movement and stillness is a fundamental essence of what it is to be human." 

But today, the migration from place to place is not always voluntary. Many have been forced to abandon homes and settlements often with no money and only what they could carry on their backs. Without proper housing and protection from heat and cold, many refugees die from exposure and starvation. 


As war and climate changes continue to wreak havoc across the globe, many have been left without proper shelter in the world's harshest weather conditions. With this in mind, Seikaly's dome-shaped shelters will provide shade, protection and give a sense of dignity to those forced to leave all they have known behind. The collapsible tent would allow these involuntary nomads to carry home with them no matter where they are forced to go. 



Primarily constructed of woven fabric, the structure will expand to create a private space and fold up easily when it is time to move on. These shelters also include water tanks on the top of the tent and provide renewable electricity through solar absorption. Its outer skin absorbs the sun's rays and converts that energy into usable electricity, while the inner skin provides protection and pockets along the botton half of the dwelling for storage. Water rises to the storage tanks via a thermosiphoning system and the drainage system ensures the tent does not flood. This water can be used for a quick shower, food preparation, or any other activity that calls for fresh water. 


Well ventilated and lit, this shelter can be opened up in the summer months and closed off in cold winter weather. "In this space, the refugees find a place to pause from their turbulent worlds" Seikaly added; "a place to weave the tapestry of their new lives. They weave their shelters into a new home."