Below is my entry for the "Home-for-all" project initiated by Toyo Ito and other Japanese architects. The prompt was to design a 30-sq.-meter "living room" for people who have been displaced by the earthquake and tsunami, and who find little privacy in the relief camps that have been set up. Although the setting is specific in this case, the problem of emergency shelter is almost universal.

It is surprising that I was able to put together something while interning at OMA. And I suppose the low-tech aesthetic is something that is unavoidable, both because this design needs to be affordable, and because it was created on my computer here in the Rotterdam office, where asking dumb questions is sometimes the key to good design, according to Rienier de Graaf, head of AMO, in a recent interview.



In the aftermath of disaster and loss, we experience immaterial and effervescent ideals such as beauty, truth, and love more profoundly than before. This house is a container for these things, and a preserver of the inhabitant’s dignity.

It is fortunate that, owing to the spectacular contributions of contemporary Japanese architects, empty space now represents luxury. And yet, to be truly dignified, space needs to be carefully detailed and meticulously calibrated. Clutter diminishes spirituality. This house is an apparently empty room, 6.9m long and 4.3m wide. The space of the room is carefully divided, however, not by walls, but by reveals in the floor. This method of distinction provides a subtle hint about the various activities that can take place within each island, without dictating a permanent program. This gives the inhabitant a sense of openness and luxury even in a limited space.

Simple furniture and storage units can be arranged within the space of the room without looking cluttered or messy. Each island can be cleaned and arranged independently. By providing a sense of order within the space of the room, the architecture provides the inhabitant with privacy, freedom, and dignity. This architecture strives for a balance between mathematical, proportional order and a sense of free serendipity.

It aspires to give its inhabitants something more than shelter from the rain: as Le Corbusier said, “Space and light and order… are the things that [people] need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.”

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