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photo of Homebase
Photo: Eirik Johnson


Seattle, Washington


Seattle, Washington

  • Design Mentor

    Kirsten Ring Murray

  • Design Mentor

    Blair Payson

Created for the 2021 Seattle Design Festival, the Homebase installation imagines a prototype for flexible temporary housing. To create the prototype, Olson Kundig, Dowbuilt and ARUP partnered with Camp United We Stand (CUWS), a local non-profit organization that works closely with churches and other agencies in the north Seattle and Shoreline communities to host legal, permitted encampments where up to 35 people experiencing homelessness can live safely. Permits for these types of encampments are limited to 90-day periods, adding an extra layer of complexity as housing solutions must be able to be easily disassembled, moved and reconstructed.


Using commodity materials available from big box retailers, Homebase is designed to be constructed by people with no construction experience or tools. To streamline construction and minimize waste, the installation is created from 2-foot by 4-foot plywood modules. Each element is predrilled and easily tied together with bolts, which also enables the structure to be quickly disassembled, moved and rebuilt, and allows for ease of replacement if elements break in transit. Modules paneled with semi-opaque polypropylene provide pivoting doors, windows and skylights that bring fresh air and natural light to the interior. The structure’s 8-foot by 12-foot base is informed by the amount of space allotted to each CUWS resident. The floor utilizes standard concrete deck blocks with the flexibility to adapt to different terrain.


Throughout design and development, the team met with CUWS residents to learn about their needs and priorities. Secure storage and customization were highlighted as key considerations for the prototype design. The Homebase interior has a built-in modular bed platform that also doubles as storage, while the plywood materiality allows residents to customize and add personalization to the interior surfaces. The entire structure is covered by a tarp attached to the roof frame with ropes, creating additional storage space overhead.


For the Seattle Design Festival, the installation repurposed plywood panels from Chinatown-International District storefronts that had been painted by local artists Erin Shigaki & Scott Méxcal of Purple Puerta Collective, conserving resources while honoring the creativity and energy put into these murals.




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George, Samira. “Local camp residents and architects are reimagining affordability and livability.” Real Change, 18 Aug. 2021. Print.

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Phair, Vonnai. “Check out the Seattle Design Festival and other fun things to do.” The Seattle Times, 20 Aug. 2021, C17-C18. Print.

Phair, Vonnai. “Explore interactive art installations at Seattle Design Festival and more fun things to do this coming week.” The Seattle Times Online, 19 Aug. 2021. Web.