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Paper House [An affordable approach to sustainable housing]

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Adriano Pupilli
University of Sydney | Australia
"As I sit here in a steamy internet café on one of Phnom Penh’s dusty streets, I am once again immersed in the energy of displaced people fighting for things that most wealthy people take as given; clean water, food, sanitary services, basic infrastructure and adequate shelter. If shelter is basic to human survival, those trained in its provision should be relevant and accessible to all.

Architecture is a social art with its forms generated by context, physical and cultural, the derivative of people and their interaction with the space around them. This dissertation is one student’s perspective of how architects can realize this interaction through self-help and sustainable technologies."

This study aims to develop a working prototype of low-cost, transportable, sustainable and autonomous shelter. Utilising polymer coating technology combined with salvaged, recycled or renewable core materials, the developed solution explores an alternative architecture for Australian urban dwellers living in marginal, insecure or inappropriate housing due to economic constraints.

"Ultimately the paper house set out to achieve two main objectives; to apply lessons learnt abroad and locally of peoples-process and material inventiveness to explore an alternative architectural type, responding to the local problem of housing Sydney’s financially challenged student population. The second objective was to reconfigure the design process with the intention to interweave informal peoples-process with a formalised architectural process in order to explore an alternative architectural process.

The importance of these two objectives extends beyond the evaluation of this dissertation project. Moreover, their realisation through the paper house and other case studies introduced in this dissertation demonstrate the implications of peoples-process, self-help and material innovation to the practice of architecture, architects relevance to a wider society and ethical city development. If shelter is basic to human survival, those trained in its provision should be relevant and accessible to all. Why then do social, cultural and economic barriers inhibit those most in need from accessing adequate shelter? The following study confirms that emancipation of architectural process and the nurture of ground-up people-driven process is one possible way in which architects may begin to serve the neglected."

Adriano Pupilli

In 2002, supported by a traveling scholarship, Adriano lived and worked in a Philippine squatter settlement.

Inspired by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of these squatters, Adriano undertook a one-year contract working with an industrial polymer company investigating the use of coated low-cost materials for social housing. The resulting dissertation, and full-sized two-storey bay of an extremely low-cost house made of cardboard and other recycled products, demonstrates his mix of pure energy and practicality, excellent design skills and a commitment to social justice.

The project has set a precedent, the University is now keen to trial this model for student housing.

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