1st Prize

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Project by: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek.
from Poland

 Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek
winning team kairalooro 2020


Given the unpredictable conditions of emergencies that may threaten the Sub-Saharan region, the Foldable Emergency Shelter is conceived to embrace those challenges being a simple yet functional framework in which architectural identity brings humane values to affected communities. Aiming at providing an immediate relief after the disaster, the key characteristics of the shelter are those of an easy assemble and disassemble process, a compact and flexible structure, and adaptability to rapidly changing conditions. Such peculiarities have been achieved by introducing a construction system based on a single, prefabricated element – a rectangular plywood board with indentations which by an easy process of assembling – sliding one board into the other – creates a waffle-like construction that might be quickly put together and demountable even by an unqualified person in a very short time. Such system provides a wide range of flexibility – each wall might be easily adapted to current needs by adding or removing horizontal and vertical boards wherever and whenever needed. Building the shelter from identical units is also crucial for its functional responsiveness: ergonomic dimensions of each board make it possible to pack all elements on one truck and transport them to the desirable site immediately, and such a process might be repeated multiple of times. This is one of the most important reasons why the shelter is not built from materials that are available on-site – such a solution will be heavily dependent on available resources which scarcity imposes alterations on the design that are both labour and time-consuming. A lack of pre-defined design that is prone to changes does not allow for an easy disassemble of elements and therefore makes the solution very low sustainable. Moreover, using the sources that in many occasions come from the emergency itself, creates a certain danger of introducing harmful particles to the construction, which may have a severe effect on people's health. Thus, the shelter's floor is elevated on plastic crates to keep it in hygiene condition, stabilize on uneven ground, and prevent from eventual flooding. The architectural articulation of the shelter is defined by the structure of outer walls that expresses transparency of provided assistance and gives specific identity translated into a feeling of safety. It also has a purely practical function: it is a space to store packages that arrive to the shelter and which might be arranged freely – according to the needs, they may open up or close down the visual connection between the inside and outside. Remained openings of the walls allow for natural ventilation with inlet air cooled by the vast overhang of the roof that provides shade and protects from the low sun rays in the east and west side. The simplicity of the design and transparency of its functionality is yet equipped with multiplicity of layers that provide sufficient privacy for diverse users and enfolds around the shelter in form of a spiral. Ascending ramp that leads to the spatial waiting area designates the first space in front of the assistance entrance and is accessible for everyone seeking help. The path that goes further alongside the outer walls up to the management entrance defines another, more private space for people who work there: in the shaded outdoor corridor, they may regenerate during breaks. The third one – the delivery point is located right next to the management entrance to quickly repack all goods from the truck directly to the storage room. The layout of the outer space also corresponds with the inner space. In essence, the waiting area gives immediate access to the space devoted to assistance, reception, and monitoring (that comprises 50% of the floorplan area) and the logistics entrance to the management and organization of the emergency one. Both spaces are presented in the form of an open plan, but according to specific needs, they might be divided with partition walls to create dedicated rooms. They are connected by a functional core where there is a storage and a compostable restroom that uses wood shavings. Storage is not a room in its physical sense – it functions like a cupboard accessible from sides only that allow to store packages along its entire length (2.4 meters). Moreover, storage's construction – unlike the construction system of outer walls – makes it possible to change the position of horizontal elements to customize the space to store packages of various sizes. Adjacent to the restroom, there is a water tank for collecting rainwater that, thanks to the filtration process, might be distributed for people.


Foundations: standard plastic crates (that can be reused), dimensions of 35x45x55cm. Floor: wooden frame (rough teak wood) elements of 3 x 8 x 100cm + plywood sheets of 2x100x100cm nailed with steel sinker nails 50mm. Walls: A prefabricated plywood board – dimensions of 3x60x120 cm with 3x3x30 cm indentations each 60 cm. Boards are identical; therefore, they may function as either horizontal or vertical elements that slide one into the other and create a wall. The corners are stabilized with doubled, slip-in L-shape plywood elements (70x160x160x70x90x90 cm) with a 10cm distance in axes, thickness 3cm. Roof: truss (wall construction) + sub-construction: wooden anchors (3x3cm profile) placed every 60 cm on top of the truss elements that provide 1% inner slope + longitudinal plywood elements on the perimeter (3x20 cm profile) + white waterproof PVC membrane, 10x100cm sheets, 2mm thickness mounted with screws 35mm with rubber gasket to ensure water resistance.


Construction starts with assembling the foundation from reusable plastic boxes on which a wooden frame is installed. It serves as a base for the floor which plywood sheets are mounted to the frame with 8cm steel nails. The walls are constructed from prefabricated plywood boards so that horizontal and vertical elements slide one into the other and consequently form a waffle-like structure. First, the corners are assembled by sliding-in L-shape profiles at the top and at the bottom of vertical elements that are laid-down on the floor. The rest of the walls are assembled in fragments and then all elements are turned 90o to the vertical position to be joined together. The roof structure is a cross-truss constructed in the same way as walls. In its final position the truss’s vertical elements are aligned in axes with vertical elements of the walls. On top of that there is a sub-construction of wooden anchors placed on a grid 60x60cm which provide a 1% inner slope of the roof. The anchors have a clamp at the bottom, which connects them with the truss and on the other end the waterproof fabric is screwed to them.


by: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek.

winning team kaira looro 2020

Can you tell us more about your team?
We all completed our Bachelor studies in Poland - Agnieszka graduated from Warsaw University of Technology, Aleksandra and Kamil from the Cracow University of Technology. Still, we met each other only last year when we started our Master's Programme in Architecture at the Delft University of Technology. Soon we have found out that we are not only good friends but also we share common language and values concerning architecture and ways of designing it. A decision to participate in the competition came naturally when we realised that we complement each other's skills. It became particularly valuable when current circumstances forced us to communicate remotely.

What was your feeling when you knew you were the winners of the competition?
Information about winning came to us as a surprise - we were all in different cities and countries. When we called each other with the news, our first reaction was a shock, which quickly turned into great exultation - we jumped and shouted overwhelmed with joy, accompanied by our families.

Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
Given the unpredictable and severe consequences of emergencies, we focused on those aspects of the design, which will make it possible to provide immediate relief after the disaster. Introducing the structural system made out of identical wooden boards that slide one into the other we achieved the construction that can be easily transported and quickly assembled and disassembled on-site as well as is adaptable to changing needs. Moreover, the architectural quality of the shelter was equally essential for us as we believe that the identity of such a temporary structure has the power to bring back affected communities together.

The aim of the competition is to create a place that protects people during emergencies. How important is this theme today? According to you, what could be the role of architecture for emergency?
The current situation of the pandemic that has affected all countries in the world made us realise that emergencies of the XXI century are not necessarily restricted to developing countries only and that their unpredictability questions all the values we were used to. Given the fact that from the past few months, we are confined to our domestic environments, more than ever did we understand that architectural shell is a natural and inseparable extension of our lives. In the case of emergency, architecture is the first means to fulfil our fundamental feeling of safety and provide us with a certain notion of identity.

Can you briefly explain the concept of your project and which is the relationship between it and the emergency?
A dialogue in between our design and a case of emergency is based on the construction system of prefabricated wooden boards with indentations that by sliding one into the other create waffle-like walls. Such a structure can be quickly assembled and disassembled even by unqualified workers which is a crucial aspect when the engineers are not available on site. Moreover, the dimensions of each board make it possible to load all elements on one truck and transport them to the desired site immediately. This system also provides a wide range of flexibility – if needed, each wall might be easily adapted by adding or removing horizontal and vertical boards. The structure has also a purely utilitarian function: it is a storage space for packages that arrive at the shelter and can be arranged freely to provide enough privacy inside.

How did the material choice affect your design?
Due to the unpredictable conditions that may threaten the Sub-Saharan region, we understood that using materials available on-site or coming from the emergency itself creates a certain danger of introducing a construction containing harmful particles that may seriously affect people's health. Therefore, we approached the subject of sustainability with a hygienic and durable structure that can be reusable multiple times. This is the reason why the ease of transportation and a non-destructive disassembly process were key factors in our design.

Has your project been inspired by anything-in particular, by some project in developing countries or past projects of Kaira Looro?
In our design, we were mainly inspired by the nature of humanitarian help itself - by the transparency of its actions, the way how affected people are treated with equality and respect, and by the perspective of rebuilding the identity of broken communities. We compared these notions with a basic element that is inseparable from providing aid - a simple box in which various goods are transported to the shelter. Looking at the ways how storing packages can be integrated into an architectural structure became our main inspiration for the project.

How your idea of architecture can solve emergency in developing countries, and how the community concerned could perceive this architecture?
We are aware that emergencies which affect developing countries have very complex environmental consequences and that with a single building we cannot simply solve all of them. However, we believe that architecture has the potential to tackle one of the most important aspects concerning a post-disaster situation, namely building back the identity of broken communities. We translated this issue into our design through an open and transparent structure which manifests help that is provided there. It functions as a framework which is not imposed on the community but rather invites everyone to co-create it and as such gets a certain identity that is later taken over by the society itself.

From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of architects in dealing with complex issues such as emergencies or architectures in developing countries?
In our opinion, one of the most crucial aspects when designing for emergency conditions is to put ourselves in the position of future users and translate all of our empathy and professional knowledge to the project. It is not only necessary to design a low-tech building which can be easily assembled by local people but also it should translate certain atmospheres like domesticity and care which increase the level of mental health of its users. It is also important to remember that designing a temporary and low-budget structure should not affect its architectural value.

The aim of the competition was also to improve the research on the topics of sustainable architecture with natural and recycled materials. How do you feel that contemporary architecture is approaching these topics?
We are conscious that a notion of sustainability in regards to contemporary architecture has to be questioned and redefined again because of an accelerating pace of changes that we have observed in recent years. Also, the current situation of the pandemic may irreversibly change social distancing and the way how we are used to gather in public buildings. Therefore, we see that sustainability is not only about building from natural or recycled materials but is more about using them in such a way that elements can be easily adapted to changes of the space. In this way, we can be sure that even the most sustainable design does not end up in the landfill when its fixed system can no longer be used.

Your fee, such as all fees of the competition Kaira Looro, is a donation to the no profit organization Balouo Salo that helps people in disadvantage area of Senegal. How it has affected you approach to the competition?
When we got to know that our registration fee will contribute to Balouo Salo organisation we realised that the objectives of the competition are solely focused on people in need and not on commercial benefits. This information made us realise that this project has a real chance to improve living conditions in developing countries and is not only created for the sake of designing.

Your prize is an internship at Kengo Kuma & Associates, one of the most prestigious architecture studios in the world. Can you express your feelings about it?
We are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to be honoured with an internship at such a prestigious architectural practice as Kengo Kuma & Associates is. We identify ourselves with the aesthetics of their projects and therefore, we are looking forward to experiencing how designing such a humble yet elegant architecture looks like in practice. We eagerly await to contribute our knowledge and skills to the office.

The first edition of Kaira Looro has won by another Polish team, do you know the winning project of that edition and its team?
We are familiar with this project as its poetic approach caught our attention when the results of the first edition were announced. We are proud of a young generation of Polish architects whose projects are more and more often appreciated on the worldwide architectural scene in regards to their high quality.

The aim of the competition is also to give professional opportunities to young architects, and we wish your team the best achievements for your career. How do you think you will be in next 10 years? According to you, how much will this award affect your future?
Above all, we regard the internship as a chance to see how one of the world's most reputable architectural practices functions. We believe that the experience that we will acquire there will be a highly valuable source of knowledge. Later it may become a base for us to start our own practice as this competition has proved that we complement each other at work.

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