by , 09/12/06

Kyohei Sakaguchi, zero yen house, vancouver art museum, homeless architecture

When we speak of squatter settlements and slum communities, they are most often situated in bursting-at-the-seams megacities, which are largely in the developing world. But a few of the largest global cities are, of course, in industrialized nations. Take Tokyo, one of the most densely populated metropolises on earth. Here, too, the homeless have been innovating their way into housing solutions, a fact that architect Kyohei Sakaguchi knows well.

Sakaguchi’s 2004 book, Zero Yen Houses, catalogued the temporary and semi-permanent shelters of Japanese city dwellers who cannot afford homes (hence the name, Zero Yen). On September 23, a new Sakaguchi exhibition will open at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The installation will include a replica of a Tokyo homeless shelter as well as materials from Sakaguchi’s more formal architectural background.

This article characterizes Zero Yen Houses like this:

“The homes [are] carefully built, meticulously kept and collapsable for quick movement when the police move in […] Fans are inspired by the homes’ design and functions: elaborate triangular roofs, or intricate networks of metal piping to keep the structure standing. [Or] a home powered by solar batteries.

“Even to the untrained eye, the homes of Japan’s homeless are remarkably well-built and cared for. Some are fitted with traditional Japanese tatami mats; others boast extensive gardens with neatly trimmed camellias and bonsai shrubs.”

We don’t want to romanticize the lifestyle of the urban homeless, but there’s something incredibly charming about some of these makeshift habitats. If you’re in or near Vancouver, this is likely worth a trip.

+ Vancouver Art Gallery

Related Posts


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Walter H. Barrett September 21, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks Maggie:
    We have already found that just by asking around it is possible to get amazing amounts of left over construction materials. There are literally tons of them going to the landfills. So far we have picked up new sheets of plywood, used tempered glass sliding doors and quite usable lengths of treated lumber of various sizes. We plan to build a 12′ L X 8′ W x 10’H passive solar mini home off the grid with a sleeping loft, a waste vegetable oil backup heater, solar watrer pump, solar shower, and a composting toilet. We expect to do this on a DIY basis for very little money. Photos and specs will be available. We feel we can do this with about seventy-five percednt recycled materials and still look like a factory built mini home module. We will be happy to share informatrion with any interested parties. We are seeking cheap land in the New England area to buiild a demo unit. Winter is coming so it will probably be in the spring. We are also seeking cheap indoor space for an assembly line if the concept works out. Someone has to make a start in the lows coast solar home field.
    Walt Barrett

  2. Maggie van Rooyen September 14, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    I do agree with Walter H. Barrett. I am a Realtor in New Zealand and because the Labour Government is quite socialistic there is government housing available for the lower income. With this, we still have homeless people. This article was interesing as I will show my fellow service group members it and hopefully we can come up with some ideas to help the plight of these people.

    This is by far the most useful website ever. Thank you for the information and the inspiration.

    Beacon Pathway Ltd is a research consortium in New Zealand that’s working to find affordable, attractive ways to make New Zealand homes more sustainable

    Their Vision is simple:

    Creating homes and neighbourhoods
    that work well into the future
    and don’t cost the Earth.

    Together we can protect our precious garden the earth. It is true that we really have no where else to go.

  3. Walter H. Barrett September 13, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Good morning:
    I would just like to say that I think your web site is one of the most interesting that I have ever visited and that I have subcribed to it on Feedblitz. I believe that the tiny homes are definately the way to go for the people who are presently stuck in the lower income brackets. As an experiment, I am presently gathering up free tempered glass and other salvaged materials so that we can build a super low cost micro home that doesn’t look like it was cobbled together. We have also developed a very safe heater using waste vegetable oil. The biggest problem that we see here on the east coast of the USA is that land is very expensive unless you go way up to Northern Maine, and then you can’t buy a job there, so what good is that unless you happen to have an internet business. I can even envision a whole new segment of society living in older used motor homes. I am using part of the profits from my company to work on these problems. Your web site is a huge help to me.
    Thank you,
    Walter H. Barrett President

  • Read Inhabitat

  • Search Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Browse by Keyword

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home