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Pop-Up Housing: Designs for housing the homeless

Susmita BaralSusmita Baral
Pop-Up Housing: Designs for housing the homeless

The HOME competition, organized by Building Trust International, was a special competition that propose a unique challenge to architects: To design house for the homeless under £20,000 ($31,700) per unit. The competition received 450 proposals from architects and designers based from over 50 cities and 20 countries.

The winning design was by Levitt Bernstein, who designed 23 square meter one-room units into abandoned garage space. Each unit can be built for roughly £13,000 ($20,100), and provides a sleeping area, a washroom, and kitchen facilities. What’s more, the living quarters are easy and quick to put together and can be recycled.

Architect Georgie Revell said:

‘The proposal targets under-used spaces in high density areas where land value is high and rising. We believe it offers a creative and practical interim solution between other development opportunities and we’re really excited about the potential to develop the scheme with Building Trust and our partners.”

Honorable mention was given to a proposal which had a home inserted into a drainpipe, designed by 360 Architects. This off-beat idea may sound odd, but consider this: The cost is low since there is no need for a foundation, a wall or underflooring; the exterior is strong and provides good insulation; and the facility can easily be expanded by adding more pipe components.

Another idea, designed by Groundwork HK, reuses train carriages. The trains “become homes and allow residents to continue life’s journey (literally) across China from Hong Kong”. Other ideas include a proposal by students at the National Technical University of Athens who have designed a lightweight structure on vacant roof tops offering fresh air and great views. A design by Urban Home Indy calls for an in-fill house to be placed back alleys and vacant properties. The architects explain: “The alley becomes a new address, not defined by the oversized scale of the auto-centric city but instead one that works with the scale of the pedestrian, the human scale.” As with most of the projects, it is constructed off-site. The outside is made out of a coloured rubber roofing membrane which is weather resistant and durable.

Building Trust International shares on their website:

The Jury was made up of members from the Architecture and Design community alongside humanitarian organizations such as the YMCA, Crash and Habitat for Humanity who unanimously favoured the design from Levitt Bernstein. They liked the projects clever use of space and design through regeneration of existing under utilised garages that are all too common to urban council estates up and down the UK.  We are now working with Levitt Bernstein and other non-governmental organizations to take the project forward into the planning phase.

See more inventive projects that got Honourable Mentions on the HOME competition‘s website.

Susmita is a freelance writer and editor in the Greater New York City area with her own blog on natural beauty (Cherry Stained Lips). In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.


    It looks like a good idea to me, enough room for a bed, kitchenette & bathroom. Just the necessities. Better than seeing the homeless sleeping in the streets. Like storage units.

  • Marlene

    What a wonderful and creative idea. The fact that there are people who want to do something and have the talent to actually do it is fabulous. And they look wonderful too.