Ex­hibit brings fo­cus to tem­po­rary homes

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Kather­ine Roth

A new ex­hibit show that when it comes to the de­sign of homes and in­te­ri­ors, ideas can have sur­pris­ing ori­gins.

When it comes to the de­sign of homes and in­te­ri­ors, ideas can have sur­pris­ing ori­gins.

The ori­gins of Mod­ernism’s spare func­tion­al­ism can be traced to hous­ing so­lu­tions cre­ated to solve Europe’s se­vere hous­ing cri­sis in the af­ter­math of World War I. And once-rad­i­cal con­cepts like open flow plans, Pyrex glass­ware and linoleum floor­ing were ini­tially de­signed for cor­po­rate or in­dus­trial set­tings.

A con­tem­po­rary ex­am­ple of that flow of ideas from cri­sis to gen­eral use is Pritzker Ar­chi­tec­ture Prize re­cip­i­ent Shigeru Ban’s use of thick pa­per tubes in the quick and ef­fi­cient con­struc­tion of tem­po­rary hous­ing for dis­as­ter vic­tims. The tubes have also been em­ployed by Ban to build in­no­va­tive mu­se­ums, churches and other struc­tures around the world.

In the other di­rec­tion, IKEA’s ex­per­tise in in­ex­pen­sive flat-packed fur­ni­ture has been ap­plied to shel­ters, which can be rapidly and cheaply trans­ported around the world and as­sem­bled — and dis­as­sem­bled — within a mat­ter of hours.

A new ex­hibit at the Mu­seum of Modern Art in­vites vis­i­tors to take an en­tirely new look at the con­cept of home and de­sign, this time through the lens of mi­gra­tion and global refugee emer­gen­cies, in which tem­po­rary shel­ters, or­ga­niz­ers say, are be­ing de­ployed on a scale akin to that af­ter World War I.

The ex­hibit “Inse­cu­ri­ties: Trac­ing Dis­place­ment and Shel­ter,” on view through Jan. 22, brings to­gether both artists’ ideas of home and what it rep­re­sents and also a range of de­signs of shel­ters and refugee set­tle­ments.

“These shel­ters and camps are, in re­al­ity quasiper­ma­nent,” said Sean Anderson, as­so­ci­ate cu­ra­tor in MoMA’s De­part­ment of Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­sign, who or­ga­nized the show with Ariele Dionne-Kros­nick. Shel­ters are de facto homes to hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple through­out the world, Anderson points out, and the av­er­age time a dis­placed per­son re­mains in such a sit­u­a­tion is over 20 years — longer than many peo­ple re­main in one home.

The ex­hibit is di­vided into sec­tions on bor­ders, shel­ters as a con­cep­tual as well as built phe­nom­ena, and set­tle­ments, and fea­tures a Bet­ter Shel­ter struc­ture, de­signed by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and the IKEA Foun­da­tion, to give a sense of one type of struc­ture many dis­placed peo­ple call home.

It also in­cludes ex­am­ples of de­signs meant to help dis­placed peo­ples, in­clud­ing a UNICEF “Schoolin-a-Box,” con­tain­ing ma­te­ri­als needed to set up a makeshift school for about 80 stu­dents, and “Ado­les­cent Kits for Ex­pres­sion and In­no­va­tion,” fea­tur­ing plas­tic boxes filled with col­ored mark­ers and other craft ma­te­ri­als.

“A refugee set­tle­ment is a re­al­ity where in­ge­nu­ity and re­pur­pos­ing of re­sources is brought to the max, and the val­ues and use of tech­nolo­gies are ac­cel­er­ated,” ex­plained Marte Terne, head of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion for the Swe­den-based Bet­ter Shel­ter .

Ex­plain­ing the way the min­i­mal­ist tem­po­rary hous­ing struc­tures evolve once in use, she said: “Tex­tiles and rugs are used to make the space co­zier and softer, per­sonal items are hung up on the walls, a tele­vi­sion is in and cer­tain cor­ners or ar­eas are ded­i­cated to spe­cific tasks or stor­ing of cer­tain items.. A home emerges.”

The “Inse­cu­ri­ties” ex­hibit is jux­ta­posed with a larger MoMA show “How Should We Live: Propo­si­tions for the Modern In­te­rior,” one floor above it, which traces de­sign so­lu­tions cre­ated to ad­dress Europe’s postWorld War I hous­ing cri­sis to their even­tual evo­lu­tion into the stream­lined func­tion­al­ism what later be­came Modern de­sign.

“We live in a highly in­ter­con­nected world, and ideas move very flu­idly and very quickly,” says Don Wein­re­ich, a part­ner at the New York-based En­nead Ar­chi­tects, be­hind projects in­clud­ing Wil­liam J. Clin­ton Pres­i­den­tial Cen­ter and the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum of Utah. Wein­re­ich and ar­chi­tect El­iza Mont­gomery also lead the award-win­ning Re­think­ing Refugee Com­mu­ni­ties, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween En­nead Lab, UNHCR and Stanford to de­sign bet­ter set­tle­ments for dis­placed peo­ple.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween a shel­ter and a home has less to do with how long some­one lives there and more to do with a res­i­dent’s abil­ity to per­son­al­ize and mod­ify their dwelling,” Wein­re­ich says. “We de­sign to cre­ate the con­di­tions where a trau­ma­tized pop­u­la­tion has the op­por­tu­nity to adapt the shel­ters that are pro­vided to them. In­clud­ing vic­tims in de­sign can con­trib­ute to the very com­plex process of heal­ing.”

Un­like dur­ing the af­ter­math of World War I, these de­signs are em­ployed in a range of cul­tures, as op­posed to a sit­u­a­tion in which Euro­peans were de­sign­ing so­lu­tions for them­selves that were de­signed from the start to be per­ma­nent.

“The trick is to find a bal­ance and cre­ate some­thing that’s ef­fi­cient and durable but also flex­i­ble enough so that the user can adapt it to the way they live,” Wein­re­ich says. “Whether some­one lives in a dwelling for two months or twenty years, it is a place hu­mans live, and should pro­vide a cer­tain qual­ity of life and be more than just a state of limbo.”


This 2015 photo pro­vided by MoMA shows a fam­ily in­side a Bet­ter Shel­ter hous­ing unit at Kaw­er­gosk Refugee Camp in Er­bil, Iraq. The pho­to­graph is fea­tured in the ex­hibit “Inse­cu­ri­ties: Trac­ing Dis­place­ment and Shel­ter,” at the mu­seum in New York.

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