“Living Tents” Highlight Typhoon Recovery in the Philippines

After the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines are struggling to recover from ravaged infrastructure, leveled homes and health crises, with the support of governments and non-governmental organizations alike. One of the most pressing issues is housing recovery, as it’s critical to get displaced typhoon survivors into secure housing, temporary and otherwise, to get them out of the elements and help them start rebuilding their lives. One innovative program, the Leapfrog Project, is highlighting need and coming up with an innovative solution to the perennial problem of how to quickly and safely build houses in regions where it can be hard to organize labor, materials and other resources.

Spearheaded by Atelier Lira Luis, the Leapfrog Project is taking a more modern, informed approach to disaster recovery and international development. Rather than imposing on regional residents, as has been the traditional practice, they’re working directly with locals from the very beginning to establish their needs and help them develop the skills and expertise they need to take charge of their own recovery. The goal with this approach is to empower communities, and ensure that they have the ability to care for, maintain, build upon and develop resources after international agencies and helpers withdraw; a living example of the “give a man a fish” saying.

Before they get started with key rebuilding, they’re installing a series of “living tents” in an art installation that will highlight the need for recovery while creating temporary structures residents can use. The tents are formed in the shape of giant balls, similar to that of structures developed by marimo algae in some regions of the world. These organisms form unique, startling shapes and the same concept is being integrated here to tie the tents in with nature, recovery and rebuilding. Using the Living Wall concept pioneered by Atelier Lira Luis, the tents will be both centers of community activity and actual living organisms, of a sort, using biomimicry and other techniques to bring them to life.

The tents will be highlighting the plight of Tacloban, a city which was almost completely destroyed in the typhoon. After a workshop, locals will be putting up the installations and getting them ready for use, while the firm will be using them as a public outreach tool to encourage people to donate to its typhoon recovery efforts. As the community starts to rebuild, the tents can be taken down one by one for replacement with permanent structures to suit evolving needs; for example, hospitals and schools might be built at places once marked by the living tents.

This project is bringing together experts from a wide variety of disciplines to help Tacloban rebuild in a way that suits the needs of the community while providing safer, stronger building options to protect it from future weather incidents. The coordinated efforts of people with varied experience, education and training to bring to the table is matched by that of local residents, who are playing an active role in the recovery process. This model of recovery could prove valuable for other regions facing severe storm damage and complex recovery needs.

Photo credit: UK Department for International Development.

38 comments

David Nuttle
David Nuttle2 years ago

The concept is great, but the article is poorly written and lacking in details on how "living tents" are quickly grown to hopefully provide adequate emergency shelter. Please add the technical information.

JL A.
JL A.2 years ago

Will be interested in seeing whether it speeds or otherwise improves the process compared to other recovery efforts

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

thank you

Darryll Green
Darryll Green2 years ago

the big question is, is this going to be another Haiti, you know ! where we send millions of dollars and the money still hasn't gone to Haiti yet, i wonder who has the money

Lin M
Lin M2 years ago

More info and pictures would be helpful. Sounds a tad weird but I don't know.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

This isn't very clear on how it will work. But the company is using this disaster for an experiment. Hope it works out.

Kamia T.
Kamia T.2 years ago

Doesn't seem like a very practical solution to lack of housing. Might be nice to look at, but if I'm sitting out cold and getting rained on again, that certainly wouldn't be my main interest.

Spencer Young
Spencer Young2 years ago

Interesting ideas

Barbara L.
Past Member 2 years ago

My main concern is that they have safe, healthy housing.

Recovery from a disaster is usually a very, very long process.

David W.
David W.2 years ago

Thanks.