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Wacky Cardboard Homeless Shelters Fold Out Like Origami

Origami has inspired countless gadgets: bicycles, MP3 players, and now, homeless shelters?

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Sounds like a gimmick, but yeah. Tina Hovsepian, a recent grad of USC’s architecture school, has invented a cardboard shelter that pops up like an origami balloon. A repeating diamond shape in the walls keeps the structure stiff. When it’s time to move, the shelter folds flat, making it easy to cart around. She calls it — wait for it! — Cardborigami.

[Hovsepian field-tested the shelter on Skid Row in downtown L.A.]

A glorified cardboard box? Sure. The idea, though, is to make the shelters (which can also be deployed in disaster situations) waterproof and fire-resistant so they hold together better than something you’d find in the parking lot of Office Depot. At the moment, she’s testing a treatment made of a non-toxic by-product of sugarcane.

Hovsepian first created the structure in her fourth year at USC. Of course, she isn’t the first young designer to turn a hand to housing the homeless. A bunch of students at MIT made shelters out of recycled junk they found in and around Cambridge a few years back. And in L.A., Eric Lindeman and Jason Zasa designed EDAR, a shopping cart that converts into a tent, when they were students at the Art Center in Pasadena. Hovsepian’s project is different because, if all goes according to plan, it can be mass produced for a pittance. Visit www.cardborigami.org for more information.

[A reader just informed us about a similar project called SHELLHOUSE that pre-dates Cardborigami. Read about it here. Thanks, Daniel!–Eds]

[Via the Architect’s Newspaper; images courtesy of Tina Hovsepian]

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