From Shelter to Dwelling

At the beginning of human civilization, we look for shelter from nature. At that time, two trees could make a coverage and a cave with fire could keep our body warm. Nowadays, someone is still looking for shelters, but from the city, instead of nature- they are homeless people who don’t have places that they belong to. In Spanish, the homeless people are called “Los sin techos” which means “without roof” as well as in French “sans abri”. A shelter is one of the fundamental and basic need of human beings. It is something that protects us from bad climate conditions, and moreover, defines that we belong to somewhere. When a shelter turns to dwelling, we can call it home.

In most of the cases, we can see homeless people stay in public facilities, like a bus station, library and self-service bank; and sometimes in public spaces, such as park, square and street. As architects, when making a project, we concern about the space for its inner usage as well as the interaction with the urban environment, but we ca

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n never predict exactly how users will utilize it. A recess of building on the street as well as a shed in the bus station, could be perfect shelters for the homeless. The project Pis Zero in Barcelona works as a training space for Fundació Arrels in the daytime and as a shelter for homeless from 8 pm to 10 am. The boards for teaching in the day can be transformed to beds at night. In this way, different users can share and take full usage of the same building day and night.

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When the city turns dark, on one side, we saw closed bed shop still with the light on, showing a warm home image, and on the other side, homeless people struggled for a space to get through the night. That reminds us a fairytale “the little match girl”. Actually, home store, though decorated like sweet home for people to live in, is merely a pictorial illusion rather than a space for dwelling, especially for the homeless people. As part of the modern city, this space is becoming an experienceable poster for consumption. Its meaning as architecture is already far from its origin- to fulfill our needs for shelter and security.

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