Flat-pack refugee shelter scoops top design award

A flat-pack refugee shelter by IKEA has scooped the top prize at the Beazley Designs of the Year 2016 awards.

Better Shelter was crowned Design of the Year 2016 and Architecture Design of the Year 2016 at a ceremony held in the new home of the Design Museum in London’s Kensington. It is a collaborative project between Johan Karlsson, Dennis Kanter, Christian Gustafsson, John van Leer, Tim de Haas, Nicolò Barlera, the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR. 

The project’s flat-packed emergency refugee shelter was launched in 2013. An alternative to the tents used to home millions of displaced people throughout the world it can be assembled in four hours, is powered by a solar-panel wall and is designed to last three years.

Better Shelter beat rivals including Tate Modern’s new ‘Switch House’ extension by Herzog & de Meuron for the top architecture spot. Judge Dr Jana Scholze from Kingston University said the “innovative, humanitarian and implemented” refugee shelter “has everything that a Beazley Design of the Year should have”.

Now in its 9th year, the awards celebrate ‘relevant and provocative’ contemporary designs from the categories of architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport. Nominations are received by the Design Museum which produces a 70-project shortlist. The shortlisted works are exhibited at the Design Museum before the winners are selected by an independent jury.

To be nominated, projects must fulfil four design criteria:

  1. Promoting or delivering change;
  2. Capturing the spirit of the year;
  3. Enabling access; and
  4. Extending design practice.

Better Shelter’s Johan Karlsson explained that the project team accepted the top honour with “mixed emotions”. “While we are pleased that this kind of design is honoured, we are aware that it has been developed in response to the humanitarian needs that have arisen as the result of the refugee crisis,” he said.

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