Michael Rakowitz. paraSITE homeless shelter. 1997

Michael Rakowitz paraSITE homeless shelter 1997

  • Not on view

"Parasitism is described as a relationship in which a parasite temporarily or permanently exploits the energy of a host," Rakowitz says, in introducing paraSITE. This temporary and transportable shelter for the homeless is dependent on the outtake duct of a building's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system for its form and source of heat. paraSITE is a conspicuous social protest, not a long-term solution to homelessness. "It is very much an intervention that should become obsolete," Rakowitz says. "These shelters should disappear like the problem should. In this case, the real designers are the policymakers."

Gallery label from Born out of Necessity, March 2, 2012–January 28, 2013.
Additional text

Like a parasite, this temporary and transportable shelter for the homeless is dependent on a host: the outtake duct of another building’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system. Following a conversation with a homeless man, Rakowitz created the first paraSITE homeless shelter from discarded materials, including Ziploc bags and packing tape. He has turned this radical take on temporary, emergency urban refuge into a cottage industry, custom making dozens of similar shelters that are in use in several East Coast cities. They cost approximately five dollars to make and are provided free of charge. ParaSITE is a conspicuous social protest, not a long-term solution to homelessness: “These shelters should disappear like the problem should,” Rakowitz has said. “In this case, the real designers are the policymakers.”

Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.
Michael Rakowitz
42" x 36" x 11' (107 x 91.5 x 335 cm)
Gift of Michael Rakowitz and Lombard-Freid Projects
Object number
Architecture and Design

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