Wouter Kalis / Social-Unit
A sensitive response to accommodating homeless people with grace in the developed world context.
This cupboard bed is designed for homeless shelters of the Salvation Army.
It is a space-saving combination of a bed and storage space on 3 m2. It is made of recycled consumer plastics, bottle caps and beer crates, and is produced in social working projects by e.g. homeless and drug addicts.
It is manufactured using very simple woodworking techniques such as sawing, milling and drilling.
The production of the units in sheltered wood workshop provides a feeling of contribution to the participating clients and forms an element in the process of reintegration onto the labour market and into society.
Our concept reels around the incorporation of recycled plastics in the manufacturing of smart, multifunctional and positive designs for the sheltering of homeless, manufactured by the homeless on their way back to regular society.
In Holland, homeless are being sheltered in single rooms. Aid organisations such as the Salvation Army have progressive goals for the homeless they accommodate. Their aim is to reconnect the willing and able homeless with society. In contrast to these positive goals are the interiors in the facilities. Often the interiors are old, broken and too large for the space. They do not invite positive action towards the future. We want to better align the progressive goals with the interiors of the shelters.
Together with the Salvation Army we have investigated how the furniture could be improved in homeless shelters in Amsterdam. It must be easy to clean, space saving, not very expensive and very strong.
We have designed the beds so that they can be manufactured using very simple woodworking techniques. They are manufactured in social working projects that provide simple day routines for e.g. homeless and drug addicts. For this project we are working with workshop projects of the Dutch Salvation Army.
The production provides a feeling of contribution to the participating clients and increases their feeling of self-worth and confidence.
Instead of emphasizing the problems and needs of the homeless we want to offer them a home and focus on the potential and the possibilities of the Salvation Army and her clients.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
As described earlier, the criteria for furniture are mainly practical in nature. All objects must be easy to clean, space saving, not very expensive and very strong.
We wanted to add an extra basic condition: the positive emotional experience of space and the surroundings.
For people in a stressful period in their lives feelings of security and peace are very important. Lying in the sleeping compartment gives a feeling of homeliness and protection. Inside the unit there is a great sense of intimacy and being sheltered.
In addition to this, keeping the room organized and tidy by storing the many possessions brings an organized feeling, something that will add to the motives to go back into ‘normal’ society.
We wanted to use a strong, ‘gorilla proof’ material and found those qualities in the recycled plastic, made of bottle caps and beer crates. We find it important not to put more waste to the planet.
It is easily treated in a similar way to wood.
Finally we wanted to focus on the potential and the possibilities of the Salvation Army and her clients instead of emphasizing the problems and needs of the homeless. We specifically designed the unit so that sheltered workshops are able to produce them with simple woodworking techniques.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
We have conducted intensive investigation into the basic values of homeless shelter furniture. We have had extended interviews with staff of Salvation Army locations in Amsterdam and visited all their locations.
After choosing the material, we needed to make several prototypes to familiarize ourselves with the qualities of this plastic. This brought to light that it is a very good alternative to wood, as strong and as easy to work with. It can be worked similar to wood with the exception of glueing and painting.
With the recycled plastics manufacturer we developed such a good relationship that the company turned into a sponsor and helps us with technical advice and a lot of financial support.
This design improves the living conditions for the sheltered homeless at the Salvation Army in the Netherlands.
It provides an answer to the problem of the ever growing consumer waste questions raised in modern society.
And It gives a sense of self-worth to the people that produce the design in social workshops, on their way back to a normal job.
After we studied the needs of the homeless shelters in the Netherlands and after we designed our solution and produced it, we went back to the Salvation Army with the results.
Immediately they were very enthusiastic and decided to commission them. Now we are producing the units for them as well as together with them in their own workshops.
We are investigating the possibilities of licensing our design to the Salvation Army International. The Salvation army would be the local producers of their own furniture.
Also we would like them to produce similar versions of our design for the consumer market.
They could sell the beds and make their own money.