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These Emergency Shelters Made From Earthquake Rubble Will Inspire You

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban responds to the post-quake crisis in Nepal with brilliant design.

When large-scale, whole-region-engulfing tragedy hits, humanity is lucky to have an architect like Shigeru Ban. In the past, his disaster relief designs and inventive use of eco-friendly materials, like water-proof and fire-proof paper tubes, have helped countries like his native Japan bounce back from catastrophe. For his newest project, the former winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize has funneled his formidable talent into the creation of an ambitious plan: a way to turn salvaged brick from earthquakes into temporary relief shelters. When April’s 7.8 magnitude Nepal earthquake shook the traditionally peaceful region, Ban went to work outlining a series of blueprints for modular shelters made of wooden frameworks filled in with brick rubble. Though the announcement was made in May, it’s only this week that we’ve finally been able to peek at what’s to come.


Ban, who works through his humanitarian organization Volunteer Architects Network (VAN) to create design relief projects, is practical about what help should look and feel like. In Nepal he is going small, creating 3x7 square foot shelters that are low cost and easy to assemble. Brick rubble, culled from the disaster, can then be stacked within the wooden frames, with the roof trusses created from local paper tubes and ensconced within a plastic sheet. To assimilate into the existing architectural style of the region, Ban has taken careful steps to ensure that each modular references traditional Nepalese architecture, with particular detail given to foldable windows. These “transitional houses” are just step two in VAN’s three-stage relief plan that previously included the distribution of makeshift shelters and medical supplies. The third stage will provide designs for more permanent, lasting housing.

In the meantime, it’s expected that the first transitional house will be constructed by the end of August.

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