Like many major cities, Los Angeles is currently in the middle of a housing crisis. Homeless populations are exploding, with encampments appearing on sidewalks, in parks, near overpasses, and along bridges through the city. While city officials are working on a ballot initiative to build 8,000 to 10,000 units to bring the homeless in off the streets, it could take years for those units to become available even if the measure passes. In response to the situation, design incubator Madworkshop collaborated with University of Southern California’s School of Architecture to create innovative new structures to shelter the homeless.
The project is called the Homeless Studio, and it’s made up of 11 fourth year architecture students and run by Sofia Borges (USC faculty and Director of Madworkshop), and Scott Mitchell (USC faculty). Their solutions run the gamut from temporary shelters to expandable modular buildings. When the structures are complete, the students will deliver them to homeless people around the city, and an agency that supports the homeless in the San Fernando Valley will use their final project as a prototype shelter.
Rather than simply attending lectures by experts, the students have also done some intense on the ground research by meeting and talking to homeless people throughout the city. Organizations like Midnight Mission and Skid Row Housing Trust helped connect the students to real people, so they could better understand the day-to-day challenges their shelters would have to overcome.
Some of the students used solutions they saw in practice on the streets – using reclaimed materials to create temporary shelters. Students Alexxa Soloman, Maria Ceja, and Belinda Park used scavenged shipping palettes, Ikea shelves, and pieces of plywood in their construction. Their classmates Jeremy Carman and Jayson Champlain took a different approach, creating a blue, rectangular box coated in fiberglass that expands outward to create sleeping and storage space. The designs are more than just a way for their occupants to stay warm and dry: they’re also a way to restore dignity to a population that too often has gone without it.
For their final, the students are collaborating on the design for a temporary housing development for Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. The agency plans to take the class’s plans, renderings, and full-scale prototype to help fundraise the final project. While a site hasn’t yet been selected, the plan complies with requirements for any commercial or industrial zoning.
Photos by Brandon Friend-Solis, renderings by Madworkshop