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London Architect Designs Sleeping Solution for London’s Homeless

A lot of London renters dream of having a comfortable and spacious flat close to the centre of the city, but thanks to a forward-thinking architect from Dagenham, the dream may soon be a reality for the growing number of homeless people in London.

James Furzer, a twenty-six year old architectural technician with Spatial Design Architects, has designed a number of elevated sleeping pods that can create a safe shelter for many of the 750 Londoners who sleep rough in the city on any given night. Titled ‘Homes for the Homeless’, Furzer’s vision recently took first place in the 6th annual ‘Space for New Visions’ competition. He beat 60 other entrants to win the grand prize of €5,000. The competition is hosted by FAKRO, a manufacturer of loft ladders and roof windows, and A10 Magazine for European Architecture, and solicits entries that include FAKRO products in the design. All proposals were judged on criteria such as environmental impact, functionality, access to natural light, and user comfort. Since the winner was announced, the pod concept has been widely praised for its clever design. The static pods will be attached to the side of an existing building, above head level, and be furnished with a mattress, basic living area, and storage space. Their purpose is to provide shelter from bad weather and other dangers that are intrinsic to life on the streets.

The commodious plywood structures do not require electricity and can be entered using a ladder that hangs from the pod door. Most occupants would be expected to stay for 4-8 hours, giving them enough time for a safe and uninterrupted sleep. Different materials could be used for pod exterior, to match the appearance of the host building, but the standard interiors would have insulated floors and wall panels with zinc cladding. Furzer suggests that pods be maintained and monitored on a daily basis, with rules for appropriate usage enforced. Access ladders would be safely stowed away at all times and nothing could fall from the pods. Open windows would regulate internal temperatures and serve as a fire escape route.

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Furzer said he is aware that his invention will not eliminate London’s homeless problem entirely, but insists that it’s a step in the right direction. “There are many bigger issues around homelessness in London,” he said. He described the pods as not merely a weather shelter, but also a “shelter from the general public who feel the homeless should be frowned upon and mistreated." The idea came to him after he observed the increasing number of metal spikes that have gone up in popular sleeping areas to prevent homeless people from settling down to sleep there for the night. Residents of many London boroughs objected to the anti-homeless’ spikes.

Earlier in July, a group of East London artists acted on their objections by placing a thick mattress over a set of metal spikes in a Shoreditch location. Government statistics reveal that during 2014-15, 7,581 people slept rough. It’s a 16 percent rise on 2013-14, and more than twice the figure of 3,673 reported in 2009-10.

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