How can basic goods be made wearable for easy transport?
In 2022 alone, there have been more than 100 million refugees who were forcibly displaced from their homes or countries of origin as an effect of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or natural disasters. This figure signifies a considerable uptick in the proportion of refugees to the world’s population, which has more than doubled in the past decade.
The majority of refugees are displaced to camps or remain hosted in a few key countries, including Turkey, Bangladesh, Colombia, and regionally in sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands of them die annually on migratory routes around the world. These rates are only expected to increase in coming decades as an effect of climate change, where more intense natural disasters can cause the displacement of entire populations, which will ultimately cause greater contentions and rates of violence between populations competing for increasingly less resources.
To accommodate for what can be sudden influxes of refugees as an effect of national or regional crises, refugee camps are often constructed quickly — and sometimes haphazardly — near the borders of host countries or in regions designated by a nation’s government or international institutions such as UN.
Camps initially intended to house small groups of people for a short period of time can grow to house hundreds of thousands of people for what could be decades. In these informal settlements, the need for a flexible mode of storing and carrying basic goods — including furniture and shelter — could immensely improve the qualify of life for refugees during migratory periods.
THE DESIGN CONTEXT
The largely immobile goods which can improve our quality of life include furniture and shelter, which for eons have been used to distinguish luxury from poverty; in many tribes across Africa, for instance, the use of a chair during ceremonial celebrations has often been reserved for the chief or any other persons of higher authority, and this elevation from the ground typically served as a physical representation of that person’s higher status.
By redesigning the basic structures found in a household setting — including chairs, tables, stands, beds, storage containers such as cabinets and drawers, and more broadly the household structure itself — to be not only mobile, but wearable, product designers can significantly improve the quality of life for refugees forced to leave their homes and communities with nothing more than what they can carry themselves.
With this core objective at the design process, Laero aims to produce a collection of wearable goods that can provide furniture and/or housing to refugees and the homeless. These goods can include, but are not limited to:
Designing such goods to be wearable means accounting for the weight of objects, the materials used, and the ergonomics of how their collapsible forms will be worn by humans; and designing those same goods to have utility means constructing them to be weight-bearing, easily assembled, and resilient to basic elements. By incorporating both characteristics into a series of objects, the scale of impact doubles with each creation.
To design a collection of home goods for migratory populations, LÆRO will partner with non-governmental organizations which offer emergency relief to refugee populations to co-create this collection with stakeholder needs squarely at the forefront of the design process.
The ergonomic design of wearable forms will depend on the varying physical characteristics of users by region, which could include average height and weight. The needs and wants of users will further inform what utilitarian goods are actually constructed out of wearable forms.
Usability testing will ultimately allow us to determine how to design intuitive assembly processes that will facilitate the rapid deployment of furniture and structures from their wearable state, while resiliency testing will ensure that structures are constructed to remain stable under a wide range of weather conditions including high winds, dust storms, high precipitation, and extreme heat.