Origami and earthquakes are the unlikely bedfellows that combined to produce a shelter for communities affected by natural disasters.
Two young Italian architects used the traditional Japanese techniques to design an easily-constructed shelter that won the UWA convocation pavilion prize, co-ordinated by UWA's cultural precinct.
Their shelter will be constructed on Whitfeld court, in front of Winthrop Hall, during the Perth international arts festival. And the design will be the subject of a business school summer school unit, to produce a business model and development plan, to try to ensure the shelter will become part of international aid agencies' rescue packages, rather than languishing as the winner of a competition.
Prize winners Elisa Mansutti and Luca Pavarin are graduates from the engineering school at the University of Udine, in north-east Italy. The university was founded in 1978 as part of a reconstruction plan for the region, following a major earthquake in 1976. Coming from a community with relatively recent experience of a natural disaster, Elisa and Luca were keen to put their skills into helping people in similar situations.
"We studied origami and its theory of self-supporting structures, in our architecture units," Luca said.
"It is a very simple structure to erect," Elisa said. "Just 13 aluminium poles in the ground, then the seams of the fabric will hold it up."
The honeycomb-like design provides for 12 private sleeping compartments around the outer part of the pavilion, with a big communal area in the middle. The designers were given a brief for an economical shelter (less than $12,000), easily deliverable to remote areas, using green technologies.
They brought together the best of several tent designs, rejecting those that needed guy ropes and the traditional emergency tent that does not provide any private compartments. they adapted the idea of the nomadic tent, using layers of fabric, depending on the weather (ensuring their design could be made with different densities of fabric), and the family camping tent, which uses zips to enclose or open out areas of different sizes.
Convocation (UWA graduates' association) chose to sponsor the pavilion project to kick-start the UWA centenary celebrations. Convocation warden Simon Dawkins said the project was innovative and represented the international aspirations of UWA.
"We have put $10,000 towards the project and council members Fran Pesich and warren Kerr (both architects) and Ian Passmore are working to implement it with the UWA cultural precinct," Mr Dawkins said.
A total of 76 entries from 24 countries were judged by a panel headed by Winthrop Professor Geoffrey London. They had to choose an entry which fused art and architecture to create an environmentally-friendly shelter.
The designers were brought to Perth by the UWA cultural precinct to arrange manufacture and construction of their shelter. They have been talking to a manufacturer of tents for the armed services and estimate that the lightweight, strong and waterproof material they will need for their 144 square-metre pavilion will cost just $2,000. The aluminium poles would be extra.
Assistant Professor Jo Sneddon, who is running the entrepreneurship and innovation unit which will develop a business plan for the pavilion, said she hoped to be able to work with a relief organisation set up after the tsunami in Sri Lanka. ISTIH (International Skills and Training Institute in Health) was established by a group from UWA, Curtin University and the WA State Department of Health to train people for aid work in the Asia Pacific region. Its leader at UWA is Winthrop Professor Bruce Robinson.
Elisa and Luca have returned to Italy to start their Masters in architecture at the University of Milan, but are planning to come back to Perth in February for the construction of their shelter.
Published in UWA News, 1 November 2010