To see housing as a fundamental human right is a relatively new concept with consequences for law, justice and politics. In issue 46: Shelter, Volume published Abla el Bahrawy’s quick scan of the first formulation of this universal right and its further development into an action agenda in consecutive UN-Habitat conferences to promote and secure this right globally.
Life is rough in the concrete jungle; only the strongest survive. Yet when it comes to things like plants or animals, qualities of agility and dexterity trump physical size or brute force. Indeed, we like to think that the city is ours – that it belongs to us humans – but pests thrive in the city much better than us. The city can be alienating and make us feel like we are completely detached from nature, when in fact ‘nature’, the non-human, is all around us. Urban Fauna Lab reports on communities from throughout the globe who look for love in all the obvious places – so obvious we might not think to look.
The introduction of digital technology into spatial contexts of refuge mobilizes a virtual geography of information, such as how many refugees are there, how many are HIV positive or pregnant, and where are they moving to. By inserting digital technology in the process of basic aid, human rights have been transposed to the digital sphere, yet incorporating advanced digital infrastructures in contexts where bricks and bread would be more than enough initiates a self-eliminating hoax, seeing as how, frankly, it is the exact same digital technology that keeps famines in place, targets relief-hospitals with drones and leaves migrants to drown. When we are all just one scan and click away to be saved, are we also too easily and often left to fate?
Ben Vickers – Curator of Digital at the Serpentine Galleries and initiator of unMonastery – sat down with Vinay Gupta – one of the world’s leading thinkers on infrastructure theory, state failure solutions, and managing global system risks – to speak about practices and politics of decentralization. In 2002 Gupta invented an open-source solution to ‘house the world’. The hexayurt shelter is designed to be manufactured anywhere in the world at any scale and from local materials.
It’s still one of the world’s major concerns: shelter. Last year saw a sad record in the number of people seeking shelter: fleeing violence or hopeless poverty, looking for safety, stability and perspective. This year won’t be any better. And despite its complexities, public and political discussion reduced it to the all too simple question who will be sheltered, where, and who will provide for this.
Shelter is most immediately associated today with conditions of disaster, displacement and destitution. There is an inherent urgency to the word; it is first and foremost a necessity, a human right even. Yet thought of as the absolute minimum necessary to survive, shelter is an architectural stigma. Shelter is not a thing though; shelter is a verb; if there is such a thing as shelter, it is because whatever it is, shelters. Volume #46: Shelter is dedicated to the question of how shelter can be reformulated as an architectural project.