perched on the edge of a mesa one hour outside of phoenix, the students at the school of architecture, first established by frank lloyd wright in 1932, celebrate a historic moment: the first generation of experimental structures, or ‘shelters’, built at the school’s new campus at arcosanti, USA. six graduating students have reimagined the typical prompt of building a small dwelling structure through a broadened range of materials, uses, and degrees of permanence. by confronting the realities of construction, all projects test and explore the notion of ‘shelter’, expanding its possible outputs and underlining building as a critical practice. within the larger context of the thesis, each student also explores the potential for these concepts to grow, translate, or scale up.

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exterior of the cinder shelter by jessica martin

all images courtesy of matt winquist photography


one of the six students from the school of architecture, jessica martin presented the ‘cinder’ monolithic shelter made out of rammed earth. standing in contrast to the lightweight executions of her classmates, jessica martin’s project is formed by a series of colorful, earthen layers with soils found throughout the region. the resulting shelter explores the synergy of architecture and its inhabitation by multiple species. the upper levels of the walls are embedded with a native seed mix, intended to either germinate or be picked away and serve as food for birds, artfully acknowledging the inevitable decay of the building.

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rammed earth interior of the cinder shelter by jessica martin



the ‘biopod 01’ shelter by solomon edelman looks to explore the comfort and satisfaction of living within biomorphic buildings, with ‘biomorphic’ describing design based upon, and physically resembling, living systems. the ground-hugging structure refrains from the use of any sharp corners, opting instead for soft curves. sitting and sleeping spaces are integrated within the thin-shell concrete system. oval-shaped openings provide access to the volume, frame views to the distant landscape, and permit cross-ventilation. the project is most at home amongst the sand-cast domes and concrete vaults of arcosanti’s distinctive architecture.

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rammed earth interior of the cinder shelter by jessica martin



designed as a shared structure between the school and arcosanti’s agriculture program, michele yeeles’ ‘shiro’ shelter explores materials that can minimize the adverse environmental impact of construction through the implementation of biomaterials. yeele employed mycelium, the root network of mushrooms, and grew the material in molds to create thick insulation panels. this grown material was then positioned within the wall framing, replacing traditional insulation with a purely biological analog. ultimately, the structure serves as an infrastructure to grow, implement, and display mycelium as a viable alternative to many of today’s engineered synthetic and often toxic construction materials.

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exterior of the biopod 1 shelter by solomon edelman



through the arch-i-part shelter construction, azrien isaac explores a kit-of-parts approach that allows for the reconfiguration of a structure as one builds it. the parts closely resemble crystals or minerals; they are of varying lengths from 18 inches up to four feet, and triangular in cross-section. they pack together to form an enclosure and are interconnected through concealed, friction-fit fasteners. made from rigid foam and coated in an epoxy coating developed for truck bed lining, they are lightweight, improvisational, and easy to assemble into various configurations. this project elaborates on the possibilities of pre-manufactured building components through bottom-up processes and a minimal set of parts.

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interior of the biopod 1 shelter by solomon edelman



shelby hamet’s temporary ‘scuttlebutt’ shelter explores ephemerality through inflatable construction. as a dome nested within the iconic vaults at arcosanti, this project creates a celebratory space for gathering while also acknowledging a collective sense of grief as the world anticipates an end to the global pandemic. shelby sewed the entire project from ripstop nylon, inserting colorful symbology representing the five stages of grief into her pneumatic enclosure. she called the work ‘scuttlebutt’, an exuberant, defiant response needed during such a challenging moment in time.

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exterior of the shiro shelter by michele yeeles

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interior of the shiro shelter by michele yeeles

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the shiro shelter by michele yeeles

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the archi-i-part shelter by azrien isaac

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detail of the archi-i-part shelter by azrien isaac

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detail of the archi-i-part shelter by azrien isaac

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axonometric of shelby hamet’s scuttlebutt shelter prior to inflation



project info:


name: the school of architecture (TSOA) shelter design-build project 2021
designer: jessica martin, solomon edelman, michele yeeles, azrien isaac, shelby hamet


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom