MIT Student Turned Artist Designs $5 Inflatable Homeless Shelter

By: | March 12th, 2014

Harsh winters are most terrible on the homeless. Staying outside in harsh winters could pose serious risks, including death.

A smart urban shelter designed by artist Michael Rakowitz’s is really a big help to the homeless. He provided a creative and temporary solution to this problem by making use of excess heat from buildings’ HVAC systems to keep the homeless warm.

About the shelter: The design of these shelters is inspired by Bedouin tents that respond to different kinds of desert winds. Rakowitz built his first structure as an MIT student. Since then, he’s made at least 60 in the various cities he’s lived. These ‘paraSITE’ shelters are simple, effective and cost under $5.

For the past 17 years, Rakowitz has been helping the urban nomads. He managed to cleverly channel the excess heat from HVAC systems of urban buildings, recycling the air as usable warmth. At first, he built these shelters using black garbage bags. However, considering the security concern, he switched to clear plastic.

The windows are made of Ziploc sandwich bags and serve as pockets to display personal items and signage for the public. Privacy and publicity can be regulated by adding or removing objects.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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