If necessity is the mother of invention, forethought was the provoker of a recent exhibition at the National Art Museum of China. The show, “Crossings: Dialogues for Emergency Architecture,” opened on the one-year anniversary of the May 12, 2008, earthquake in China’s Sichuan province that killed nearly 70,000 people and left many more without homes. Architects from China and around the world were asked to devise temporary housing structures that could be built before a rebuilding process began.
Rintala Eggertsson Architects (Sami Rintala was the lead architect of the Boxhome in Norway, which we featured in our March 2008 issue) presented a system based on modular “building blocks” that can be arranged to accommodate groups ranging from a small group of individuals to a modest-size community. The units are differentiated based on function: sleeping, cooking, sanitation, washing, storage, and so on. A basic structure is composed of five to eight units but can be grouped together by the hundreds and built up to two stories high. The units open to each other not only to protect people from the elements but to create a social setting inside.
The architects constructed prototype units at the National Art Museum of China out of laminated wood with a textile cover that acts as both insulation and waterproofing. In real applications, the structures would comprise a welded aluminum frame with an infill of plywood elements to keep them lightweight and thus easily transportable.
The hope is that these structures will never be necessary, but should the need arise, they're thoughtfully considered and well-equipped to handle post-disaster conditions.
Photos courtesy of Rintala Eggertson Architects