Guerrilla Architecture: Hacktivist Urban Housing

September 4, 2015 by

Rebel-Architecture-Guerrilla-Architect_domusweb Hacked space by Santiago Cirugeda. Via Al Jazeera.

Guerrilla architecture is a social movement aimed at bringing awareness and responsibility to urban housing design. It’s focused on reclaiming and utilizing underused space that is available to everyone. Like their guerrilla gardening cousins who build gardens, guerrilla architects hack vacant lots, rooftops, billboards, and even dumpsters, turning them into viable shelter for those in need.

scribe_billboard_house_mexico_urbangardensweb Scribe’s Mexico Billboard House for artists. ia Gizmag.

The fact that Detroit has approximately 20,000 homeless people and up to 78,000 abandoned homes and buildings raises some obvious questions. What is being done with all of that unused shelter if not sheltering those in need? The answer is– nothing. And in Los Angeles residents need to make up to $33 an hour to afford to rent an average apartment in LA County, yet minimum wage is $9 an hour. These two facts alone, minuscule in the landscape of cities across the globe, make it clear that when it comes to housing, we’ve got a problem.

Gregory-Project-billboard_house_for_homeless_pop-up-city Project Gregory’s Bbillboard housing for the homeless. Via Project Gregory.

To tackle the challenges of housing demand we need out-of-the-box thinking. We need ideas that push the boundaries of possibility in order to spur conversation and progressive solutions. By occupying (often illegally) or squatting in public spaces, guerrilla architects are constructing a platform for an important discussion and at the same time, creating some cool pop-up living spaces.

Check out these five innovative guerrilla architecture projects:

1. Billboards

Billboard-trailer-house-by-Karl-Philips-1 Via Pop-Up City

Billboards are so omnipresent in cities that they almost blend in to the blur of everything else. Belgian artist and hacktivist Karl Philips took advantage of that phenomenon and started his project “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”–parasitic apartments that live inconspicuously behind billboards. Philips built micro-apartments behind billboards on wheels, a perfect way for urban nomads to make a living.

Billboard-trailer-house-by-Karl-Philips-2 Via Pop-Up City

On the back-side of a billboard in Belgium, he constructed an apartment which was invisible from the street but provided a small, cosy place for one person.

Billboard house by Karl Philips “Concierge” via the architect, Karl Phillips

2. Plastic Inflatables

0090_a01-640x427 Via the architect, Michael Rakowitz

Attached to the ventilation systems of buildings, Michael Rakowitz’s “ParaSITE Shelters” for the homeless can be made on a budget of less that five dollars using materials such as ziplock bags, trash bags, and waterproof packing tape. Because the inflatable structures are not much larger than a sleeping bag, they (barely) meet the definition of legal temporary structures. Each shelter is specifically designed to fit the needs of its inhabitant.

3. Dumpsters

Greg_Dumpster-1150 Via the architect, Gregory Kloehn

Sure, the thought of living in a dumpster may seem like the bottom of the barrel, but what if that dumpster had a kitchen, toilet, modular rooftop deck, outdoor shower, flower beds and even a bar? Artist Gregory Kloehn took your average dumpster and transformed it into his temporary shelter in Brooklyn, New York with all of those surprising amenities. Shouldn’t there be more of these in cities across the globe?

4. Shopping Carts

camperkart-guerrilla-archtecture_urbangardensweb Via the architect, Kevin Cyr


What starts as a wooden box inside your ordinary shopping cart unfolds into a pop-up camper, created by artist Kevin Cyr. It may be small, but it’s a shelter and as an added bonus, it’s on wheels.

5. Vertical Campground

AKAMP47-10-600x400

AKAMP47-11-600x400 Via the architect, Stéphane Malka

Between Legality and Illegality
Parisian architect Stéphane Malka‘s A-Kamp47 project is like a campground on the side of a city building. The shelter is composed of 23 camouflaged tent pods, the project banked on a local law that prohibits eviction from any housing during the winter. Well, the idea succeeded in giving 47 people shelter in Marseille, France. As Milka says, his efforts are a “negotiation process between the legality and illegality.”

Social Benefits
Guerrilla Architecture has the potential to meet basic human needs while providing communities with the opportunity to work together. Seville, Spain-based architect Santiago Cirugeda of Recetas Urbanas has dedicated his career to reclaiming urban spaces for the public.

guerrilla-architecture_santiago_cirugeda Via Santiago Cirugeda
Austerity-hit Spain has about 500,000 new buildings that lie empty. It’s amazing what Cirugeda and his community are creating, due in part from living in a city where the government can no longer help people meet their basic human needs. In the video below, Cirugeda talks about his mission and also shares some incredible projects. We hope he and other Guerrilla Architects are successful in opening people’s eyes to the fringe possibilities of shelter.

Like this concept? Check out what Guerrilla Gardeners like Vanessa Harden and others are doing.

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