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  • 08.20.13

Live In Your Sneakers? Mobile Housing’s Next Step

These shoes are a place to call home–with the potential to create some serious future housing solutions.

The appeal of pop-ups is clear–it’s exciting to see something we generally think of as a permanent structure made impermanent and mobile. Though we rarely experience pop-ups beyond this realm of fun and novelty: It’s music festivals, overpriced shops, and mini-museums that tend to do the popping up. Design breakthroughs as far as actual homes you can take with you have been slim since the teepee was turned into high-tech tents.

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A new project, “Walking Shelter,” explores what on-the-go housing might just look like. Here, a portable dwelling is packed right into a pair of sneakers. Essentially a tent without a pole (that’s the clever part), the mobile home can be deployed anywhere you’d like it to pop up.


Rather than relying on the old pole standard, the shelter’s frame is provided by the person(s) occupying it, explains Amelia Borg, one-eighth of Sibling, the Australian architectural collective behind the project. Sibling created the prototype for a special line of high-concept high-tops sponsored by clothing label Gorman. Theirs was one of 21 “Choose Your Own Adventure Shoes” developed by artists and designers and auctioned off for charity.

“We decided to investigate the idea of carrying a temporary shelter on your body, or an idea of habitation on the move,” Borg tells Co.Design. “The shelter accommodates the body in a variety of ways and can be customized by the user to adapt to contexts and environments.”

The protective veil is integrated into the heel of the shoes, bound up in white nets that give the sneakers a retro-futuristic, Brazil-like vibe. It’s divided into two parts, one for each shoe, that can be zipped and made into all manner of devices or accessories. Conceptual-minded friends can even knit (or zip) their shelters together to form a small communal “cove.”


If it’s refuge you seek, you can fashion the nylon and polyester tarp into a cocoon where you can withdraw from socializing and the sun. Cloudy with a chance of rain? You’ve got a poncho at the ready. And most any kind of head garb you can imagine is just a tug, pull, and fold away.

Such practical uses just begin to hint at all of the potential applications, Borg says, including the possibility of providing temporary housing for the homeless.

So is there a future for actual pop-up housing after all? The jury is still out, but at least Walking Shelter offers an inventive step in that direction. “Pop-up projects are often a good way to test a theory or idea before pursuing it in a permanent way,” Borg explains. “It may point out strengths or weaknesses in your approach.” Though she knows as well as anyone the dark side of pop-up culture: Borg explains. “However, there is also the potential danger that everything becomes even faster and more disposable.”

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.

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