Seeing one of the roles of first-world, democratic countries as humanitarian, Sean Godsell designed emergency and relief housing that utilize recycled shipping containers. Mass-produced, inexpensive, and easy to ship and stockpile, the containers are approximately 8 feet wide by 8 feet high by 20 feet long, and adequate size for temporary housing. The Future Shack, through its use of a prefabricated, universal unit and a roof capable of site-specific material manipulation, embodies the contradictions of contemporary life.
At the entrance to the container (image previous page) a ramp lowers to allow access to the raised floor as the wall raises to provide shade and create a makeshift verandah. This subtle maneuver is one of the few changes to the module – which also includes adding small openings for the roof structure and ventilation – and, along with the roof canopy, helps to create a sense of home. It is with the roof and verandah, among other design features, that the Future Shack does not merely provide necessities in response to emergency; it also symbolizes the idea of home, an idea needed to reach beyond the repetitive and modular character of the shipping container.
Inside the shack is lined with plywood and features built-in furniture – a table and bed that fold down from the wall – and a separating wall that contains plumbing fixtures for the kitchen and the bathroom beyond. By allowing the furniture to be either “open” or “closed” the single room container can be relatively spacious but also intimate, depending on the articulation of elements at any give time.
Given the Future Shack’s simple, yet ambitious, goal – to provide temporary emergency and relief housing – the means and the end are both admirable, recognizing the contradictions inherent in contemporary life. Whereas the means utilizes technology and the exchange of goods among world countries, the end becomes ultimately site-specific as the occupant is able to manipulate the roof canopy and certain interior elements. The global vs. local and macro vs. micro readings allow the Future Shack to be both a reliable solution and something to be called home, albeit for a short period of time.