Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter

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Better Shelter, Sweden. Emergency Temporary Shelter. 2010 2811

Steel frame, polyolefin envelope, polypropylene, polyamide and ABS plastic components, photovoltaics, 223 5/8 × 130 11/16 × 111 7/16" (568 × 332 × 283 cm). Gift of Better Shelter

This shelter was developed by a Swedish organization, called Better Shelter, in collaboration with the Ikea Foundation as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They were using Ikea's flat-pack technology to create an easily moveable, transportable, lightweight, and also fairly inexpensive shelter. It comes in two boxes with all the tools necessary, and it can be shipped quite quickly throughout the world. It's meant to house up to five people, although we know that there are far more people in many of them.

Recent estimates suggest that the average length of time for an individual in a refugee camp is 17 years, but people were given tents to live in for years at a time. For millions of individuals, who have crossed continents and inhospitable landscapes, to arrive at a place, what shelter brings is security. We have to ask how to make a shelter that is both impermanent but also provides a sense of permanency.

So if we think about a conventional tent, which has been used throughout the world in both emergencies as well as refugee situations: A tent provides no privacy. It provides only the flimsiest of membranes between the elements and yourself. This shelter, though, provides a sense of security, of permanency, and of ownership, I would say, to space.