James Furzer to crowdfund parasitic sleeping pods for London's homeless


Architectural designer James Furzer has developed a modular homeless shelter that would hang off the sides of existing buildings, and launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to finance a prototype.

Called Homes for the Homeless, the project was devised by Furzer – an architectural technician for British firm Spatial Design Architects – to provide temporary shelter for some of the approximately 750 people who sleep on London's streets every night.

The lightweight pods, each featuring a timber sleeping platform and fold-down seating, would be affixed to the external walls of existing buildings in the UK capital to create a series of overnight refuges.

Furzer is asking members of the public to make donations via a page on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to help raise the £15,000 required to prototype the design.

Homeless shelters by James Furzer
Possible configurations – click for larger image

"The proposal is to create lightweight modular parasitic sleeping pods that can be attached to the side of any host building or structure, allowing a safe haven for the homeless during a night's rest, sheltered from the harsh and unpredictable weather conditions of Britain," explained Furzer.

"Two thirds of rough sleepers say they have been insulted by a member of the public, and one in ten say they have been urinated on," he added. "Homeless people are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general public, and are 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft."

The steel-framed pods could be made from scrap materials to reduce production costs, and adapted to match the colouring of their host buildings.

Homeless shelters by James Furzer

They would be elevated above the street and affixed to a wall by a pair of metal brackets. Ladders would provide access, and could be stored away when not in use to prevent obstacles at street level.

Furzer believes the project could spark a change in perception to homelessness, and reduce the use of deterrent design such as metal studs installed in front of commercial properties.

Related content: see more parasitic architecture

"The rough sleepers of London need somewhere safe to sleep for an evening," he said. "If actual rooms cannot be provided, then I feel a safe sheltered area needs to be supplied."

"The introduction of metal spikes across the streets of London acting as a deterrent to homeless in their regular sleeping or resting areas I find disgusting and inhumane. If this concept can encourage a shift in the mindset of the public towards the homeless, then I believe the project is a success."

Homeless shelters by James Furzer

The temporary shelters would be managed by homeless charities, who would draw up booking schedules, usage terms and carry out maintenance to the structures.

Furzer's crowdfunding campaign launched today and will run for 60 days. He is one of many architects and designers who have recently turned to websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo to finance projects.

BIG recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its smoke-ring-blowing power plant in Copenhagen, while New York designer James Ramsey is requesting public contributions towards an underground park called the Lowline.

Visualisations are by James Furzer.

Homeless shelters by James Furzer
Construction diagram – click for larger image
  • mik

    Could be smaller!

  • mb4design

    Perhaps well meaning, but will never happen because: building codes, property owner would need to charge rent for allowing installation, current building tenant displeasure, etc..

  • Eynak East

    Homeless shelters don’t work. The social issues surrounding people on the street are complex, challenging, and not solved by a hut with a roof. Good homeless architecture should tackle the full spectrum of living. This guy at the Bartlett had a punt. http://www.petresposito.com/scattered-domesticity/

  • Sim

    I love the motivation and concern behind this but I don’t think it is a realistic proposal for several reasons; first of all the construction is not “lightweight” with steel beams that big. The beams really need to be attached in a way that will scar the facade of the host building (so you can try it out but the wall will never be the same again), and not all facade materials will be able to hold it up. In fact, with beams that big I think the beams could be much lighter – think scaffolding. I doubt even an insulated stone wall could keep that up.

    This also made me wonder if there are enough walls without windows to facilitate this. And you really have to think better about maintenance and use. Who is going to check if the pods are still clean, if they’re not clean who will clean them? Do people get their own pod or do they have to vacate it in the morning? What are you going to do with water running off the existing building? Is there sanitation and how does that work? Are they heated? How do you avoid homeless people renting them out in the summer on Airbnb?

    This design really is still in the preliminary phase of the design and not ready for a built prototype. It is a lot and I hope this comment can be seen in the light of constructive criticism because that really is how it was meant. In the end we also have to wonder about our society, why are we letting this happen with our fellow humans?

  • Eynak East

    There is a consistent and constant need for architects and designers to pretend to engage and help the homeless by providing a home. This is short sighted and arrogant, enabling little more than a warm fuzzy feeling for us thinking we’re doing something positive. We’re not.

    Homeless people are complex, vulnerable, and misunderstood group of citizens that occupy the city not out of choice but through circumstance; either escaping domestic abuse, drug abuse, financial issues, escaping war zones, or returning from the military and now unable to engage into day-to-day living. They are mentally and physically vulnerable and need health and social care, and just as importantly they should be regarded as equals.

    Projects like the above segregate this community of people reducing them to ‘other’ status. It highlights their plight and makes them easier targets. It creates corners of dark and dank spaces easier for people to be harmed, self harm, and to be ignored in society. This architecture hides the issues by covering the homeless issue under a vale.

    Furthermore, one of the issues with homelessness is funding; an issue not often considered when architects and designers engage with this issue. Having a kickstarter page where one or two if at all might be funded is a lovely gesture, but it isn’t a game changer and does nothing for the large proportion of homeless individuals.

    The design must make economic sense and should combine the needs of the homeless and the homed to share the spaces, creating architectures that re-engage with our nomadic citizens and the housed public that can sell produce, advertising space, some form of commodity in lieu of the current governments heart-warming people-centric cuts.

    • Sim

      I wish I could recommend this! Yes! Yes! Yes! As human beings and as a society we have to wonder why we don’t care enough about the homeless to come up with a structured solution that offers homeless people the chance to redeem themselves, address their issues and reestablish themselves as members of society.

  • Mira

    Let’s start by changing the language. Will anyone want something “PARASITIC” attached to their property? How psychologically and emotionally appealing is this in terms of garnering government, zoning, and public support? Most of all, it degrades a segment that is already marginalised (i.e. the homeless now become parasites).

    Despite the need for greater design (i.e. visual, social, behavioural, operational), let’s appreciate and value anyone offering a humane response and encourage a solution that integrates with other social services as a provisional bridge to a greater solution.

  • A lot of good, clear-thinking people have posted on this story. Thanks to you all. May I reduce the conversation somewhat.

    Looking at it, if it was made from plastic tubing and polystyrene instead of ‘girders’, and smaller, it wouldn’t cause as much distress to the walls.

    How would you regulate to stop city workers nabbing them for cheap rent – especially on Mayfair, Buckingham Palace, Dolphin Square, Downing Street, Houses of Parliament, and on Whitehall – and doing that thing of changing costumes in the locker rooms?

    If it could be supported by giant tie wraps, or suspended like a budgie cage, it could be attached to a tree. In which case Jane and I would love a copy. “Ahhhhhaahhhhhhaaaahhhhhhahhhahhahaaa!”

    (8.7984 x 10K hours expertise, boots on the ground, 3,666 days at 1.5330 pence/day).

  • Ralph Kent

    Seem to recall plenty of similar ideas in Cameron Sinclair’s first Architecture for Humanity book? Above all, as many people have stated, it tackles the symptom rather than the problem, and would appear to promote isolationism and marginalisation. In this regard, it could be said to be a highly architectural project.

  • Brendan

    Great cubby house. But perhaps we could give the homeless actual homes to live in. It’s been tried before, and apparently, it works: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/home-free?

  • Kat H

    #housingcrisis If this was feasible, you could probably rent these out for a tidy sum. Considering the unaffordable rental rates in London, I’m sure they’d quickly find tenants.

  • disqus_eYrStdSG60

    I understand the issues presented at hand. In this case, however, the argument can’t be black and white. Yes, there are inherent issues with “stereotyping” and marginalizing, but is it more feasible to let them be pissed on and beaten at night than saying maybe this stereotyping is a lesser evil?

    We’re not going to solve homelessness overnight, just like we haven’t solved cancer, AIDS or world hunger. All of these have quality of life improvement measures. Tackling the symptom is necessary while the grander solution is thought out and discussed in a civilized manner.

    What IS possible is providing basic safety to, at the very least, people living in first world countries. This is the kicker. The wealth gap continues to grow worldwide, so dismissing possible symptom solutions is a bit hasty.

    As far as the homeless renting out their pods on Airbnb… is this a joke?! I wasn’t aware they came fully equipped with a laptop and wireless.

    While this is an architectural project, it is also a social one, and separating the actual emotional response from this argument to make it a dry issue of realism is, well, unrealistic.

  • Bob Terry

    Who is going to clean them? What is going to stop people from using these structures as drug dens and places for sex workers to use?

  • jen carlon

    I did the same concept back in 2009 in Sydney to aid homeless increase due to the GFC: