Students design foldable, affordable homeless shelter

wsu design team and homeless shelter
WSU homeless shelter design team

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Architecture and Engineering

PULLMAN, Wash. – A WSU architecture student team has designed a shelter that they hope might someday improve the lives of homeless people.

With their design, the students are participating in the Spokane chapter’s American Institute of Architects student design competition, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in Spokane’s Montvale Hotel. A full-scale prototype of the shelter also will be on display April 28-May 14 at Spokane’s River Park Square Mall.

As part of the competition, the third-year architecture students in WSU’s School of Design and Construction designed shelters that aim to meet the needs of the homeless population.

Nationwide issue

“Homelessness is an issue across this country,” said Abigail Shane, who was among of a team of 13 students who worked on the project. “When walking through the downtown core of Spokane, you find people struggling to survive – simply needing a roof over their heads for the night.  People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing.”

Portable and affordable

The goal of the project was to design stand-alone shelters that are portable, flexible and cost under $1,000. They are constructing a full scale prototype of one of the shelter designs that was selected through students’ and reviewers’ evaluations. The shelter, which the students have titled ‘Shape Your Shelter,’ is less than six-feet tall and can be folded in several different ways to serve a variety of possible functions.

“The shelter is intended to be versatile and help the homeless population break through some of the limitations they face,” said Shane.

Homeless population interviewed

As part of the project, the students interviewed people who make up the homeless population to come up with designs that would best meet needs.

“The students have created a shelter that serves our homeless population while also providing them with dignity,” said Mona Ghandi, assistant professor in the School of Design and Construction who teaches the Homeless Shelter architecture studio course. “At the same time that it helps the homeless, it also benefits our community and society as well.”

Working with local nonprofit organizations, the students eventually hope to develop a program to make the shelter available for summertime use.

“Architecture has always been evolving to serve the needs of cities and their citizens,” said Ghandi. “Beginning to solve the homeless crisis in Spokane is not going to happen overnight, but providing affordable housing today can solve their worries tonight.“

See related article at The Spokesman-Review.

Homeless Shelter Team Members:

Students: Irene Anderson, Breanna Bagwell, Stephanie Belcher, Sydney Bodman, Taylor Fischer, Ashley Nunn, Zaky Ramadhan, Nicholas Sandoval, Jenny Schneider, Abigail Shane, Fredrick Stidhams, Brian Sze, Chucky Vallejo, Paige Wagener

Teaching Assistant: Abagail Rose Bellin

Professor: Mona Ghandi

Media Contact:

  • Mona Ghandi, assistant professor, School of Design and Construction, (510) 599-2990,
  • Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture communications, (509) 335-5095,