John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Lightweight parasitic domiciles that hack into the electrical grid? What could go wrong?
This idea surely isn't very practical – especially for the utility worker who has to replace a burnt-out light, or the stroller-mom who gets tangled in rope lines – but credit Milo Ayden De Luca for thinking outside the box about the problem of emergency shelter space.
Or about the box, perhaps: De Luca's concept for a new kind of shelter is basically a bunch of boxes that cling to light poles like whopping ticks. Called "Excrescent Utopia," the parasitic domiciles would be lightweight enough to fold up and slip into a large backpack, giving the weary wanderer an always-accessible place to lay his head (if he's willing to climb for it, that is).
De Luca, who studied at London's University of Greenwich, conceived of these outlandish people-pods while thinking of a way of "integrating the homeless back into society and giving them an identity again." In this case, their identity is that of a sea captain navigating the concrete rivers of the city, as De Luca's modeled the cubes' web of rope anchors on the rigging of sailboats.
Once affixed to a pole, an Excrescence offers many of the comforts of a real home. There's a horizontal slot for sleeping, a vertical space for doing one's work (De Luca imagines it'd be a cracking stage for busking), and power for small appliances provided by the light pole's internal electric lines. As to that last feature, it's worth noting that the shelters would be crafted from nylon or Gore-Tex, materials that wouldn't instantly burst into flames should the occupant goof up their hacking of the municipal electric grid.
This project sticks with De Luca's obsession with visionary architecture for the homeless and Occupy protestors. Last year, he was nominated for a student award from the Royal Institute of British Architects for his schemata for an "Anti-Capitalist Retreat," a compound inside a ruined quarry that would help activists train to "counteract modes of suppression by law enforcement and government." He's also designed a weird type of "protester furniture" and an "anti-capitalism machine" whose purpose is completely obscure to me.
Here are more renderings of the quixotic "Excrescent Utopia." If you enjoy this concept, perhaps you'll want to check out Russia's "Parasite Office":