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Stealth shelters colonize “legally ambiguous” space

Projects | June 1, 2014 | By:

The graffiti-laden wall of a train station in Marseilles, France, may be the next frontier in both fabric architecture and homelessness. Architect Stéphane Malka, of Malka Architecture in Paris, installed 23 shelter pods vertically on the three-story wall, creating a barnacle-like colony called A-KAMP47. Homeless or displaced people inhabiting the stealth shelters are not technically trespassing (the pods don’t touch the ground) and, grouped together, are less exposed to cold, theft and police raids. “We’ll be facing in the years to come more climate refugees, more political refugees, and the city will have to stand massive amounts of people coming,” says Malka, who wants to raise awareness about homelessness and the current French housing crisis. “This is a failure of the housing system as we know it.”

Malka installed A-KAMP47 in September 2013, taking just 12 hours
to tack the camouflage crystal-shaped tent forms to the Marseilles-Saint-Charles train station, which qualifies as public space. This positions the shelters next to, above or below traditional buildings and city elements—a legal grey zone. By putting up A-KAMP47 in September, Malka exploited a French law prohibiting evictions during the coldest months of the year.

Each shelter, entered via a scaffolding walkway, has enough space for sleeping and limited storage, the simplest of requirements for temporary shelter. The polyester elastic mesh fabric stretched over a light-weight framework includes thermal insulation blankets and a light. To date, most temporary inhabitants of A-KAMP47 have been adventuresome travelers wanting to experience Marseilles in an artistic and inexpensive way. This hasn’t discouraged Malka’s interest in “reclaiming territory in the marginalized areas of our cities, with projects that bear insurrection and civic mobilization” that “elaborate on prefabricated and hijacked construction systems.” Explore Malka’s unique vision.

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