LAVA: digital origami emergency shelter
LAVA: digital origami emergency shelter LAVA: digital origami emergency shelter
sep 01, 2011

LAVA: digital origami emergency shelter

the emergency shelter exhibition customs house, sydney, australia on now through september 3, 2011

‘digital origami emergency shelter‘ by LAVA, sydney, australia images courtesy of LAVA

sydney-based practice LAVA has created ‘digital origami emergency shelter’, a conceptual prototype for the emergency shelter exhibition on display now in sydney, australia through september 3, 2011. a solution for replacement housing during natural disasters, the exterior’s geometric appearance, derived from a water molecule, is intended to be stacked with other modules generating an interconnected village. currently a small scale representation of the framework, the full size structure is capable of comfortably housing two adults and one child for daily activities including eating, reading and sleeping.

this unit’s striated elevation is constructed with layered sheets of plywood cut with a CNC machine and spaced at even vertical intervals. contrasting the enclosure’s planar surfaces, the undulating interior reveals ledges to be used as a chair or bed when needed. during a disaster situation, the pieces may be flat-packed and shipped or dropped to individuals via helicopter to be assembled on-site. readily available materials including wood, cardboard, and newspaper may be substituted and used with the same stacking method for speedy installation. at night, battery or solar operated LED lights brighten the volume while transforming the object into an illuminated lantern, proving a sign of hope to victims.

exterior view

openings in the enclosure serve as windows

‘the project plays with ideas of prefabrication and personalised inhabitation, as well as stacking of multiple units, while giving an opportunity for individual expression.’ – chris bosse, founder and director of LAVA



ground and surfaces for seating

interior edges of plywood are painted green

opening in roof allows daylight to enter

view through window from interior

window and entrance

shelter during the day

curious passersby

pieces before assembly

floor plan

roof plan


modular elevation


sectional perspective

diagrammatic section

wire frame model

conceptual diagram


  • Look’s really nice, but it seems that the architect didnt care for the enviromental damage that this will cause simply because is uses a lot of wood 🙁

    Mr LEX says:
  • uses recycled wood to be clear

    sef says:
  • nice looking object. but lets be serious, it doesn’t really satisfy the brief of emergency shelter at all. It is big and heavy, doesn’t stop the wind and water from entering and through its random blobby interior, seems very confusing to use for someone who has been through a potentially traumatic experience. An off the shelf tent would achieve more than what this does.

    steve says:
  • how is it related to origami?

    s says:
  • I have to agree with the previous comments.

    There’s a serious high waste ratio versus the fundamental function of this piece of work. There are slso major issues concerning privacy, comfort, ergonomics, weather resistance, practicality etc. This is obviously an attempt at small-scale sculptural architecture for art’s sake and isn’t meant to be a devisable or considered solution.

    cagey says:
  • AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! not….

    jeff says:
  • A huge and heavy shelter for an emergency!!!
    Does the green paint is delivery with?

    Marlo says:
  • Lovely looking and fun but genuinely one of the worst responses I have ever seen for disaster relief.

    Be more honest – if you want to create fanciful objects with no purpose – thats ok!

    H says:
  • lovely piece of sculptural form but (as well noted above) incredibly lame response to the “program”

    this really is more like a folly – I’d love it in my back yard

    dbkii says:
  • does the paint make it “green”?

    meagain says:
  • Lovely sculptural play house for kids in really nice weather in an idea world. Maybe its meant to bring a fantasy of relief during time of disaster. Oh, to be warm and dry, lets imagine it!

    Headshaking Harriet says:
  • appalling response. not suitable for an emergency by any means

    anon says:
  • This is an insult to people in need of emergency shelter.

    Makes architects look like fools.

    Matt says:
  • just because it can be done with a computer doesn’t make it right. Just imagine putting this object together in a sea of mud, broken timber, howling rain and wind.
    One only has to remember the images from Japan’s tsnuami.
    A 44 gallon drum would provide more shelter!!

    jeffrey says:
  • If i were in need of emergency shelter this is the last thing I would want to get inside. And I agree that even if the wood is recycled the design makes material usage incredibly inefficient/wasteful. Its completely inconsiderate to the target user.

    If this were simply called a sculpture, a folly, a pavilion or an architectural installation, I could enjoy it. Calling it an emergency shelter makes me sick. I agree with Matt that it makes architects look like fools.
    Why would designboom publish such a thing? I would think the editorial team is smarter than this.

    doug says:
  • Presentation-Good

    A gratuitous waste of time, space and material that has resulted in a feeble attempt to ‘protect’ survivors of any natural disaster. Wind, rain, rising water, heat, air pollution, snow, ice.

    Cave, shelter, stacked village, the ‘designers should live in this under trying conditions and let us know how it felt.

    LAVA’s credibility !!!!!!

    headpot says:
  • Seriously? I cannot see how this construct can be applied as a shelter; heavy, wasteful use of materials, inefficient use of the volume, no real protection from the elements.

    The drawings really show how it would be used, the people needing shelter all standing around looking at it trying to figure what it is and how to use it.

    Eventually I feel the people will break it down into useful elements that will actually meet their needs as a shelter. Or burn it.

    Thompson says:
  • I saw this last week and it is an insult to everything this exhibition was proposing…An absolutely shameless self promotional wank that wasted time and money better spent actually solving the problem of emergency shelter…this thing was freking useless…I don’t care how well it photographed…

    zander says:
  • As someone involved in the Emergency Shelter Exhibition who took it seriously I am glad that so many people saw through the “shameless self promotion”. although it was one of the more popular stands, in reality it was much like the people who attended the opening night for shameless self promotion and networking oh and free asahi rather than raising funds for a genuine cause. shame on you.

    moss says:

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