In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, a group of graduate students from London’s Royal College of Art have created a hooded jacket that deploys into a sleeping bag or tent large enough to house an adult and a child. Based on a brief suggested by the clothing company Wall, and shepherded by the School of Architecture’s Harriet Harriss and Graeme Brooker, the project is now seeking funds to go into mass production. “The aim is to work with U.K. refugee agencies to continue to develop the design in time for a summer,” the students wrote on their Kickstarter campaign page. “At the moment, the materials involved are cheap and sustainable since it is intended to be distributed affordably and is not intended as a long-term solution.”
The number of Syrians who have fled to Europe seeking international asylum continues to increase, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, otherwise known as the UN Refugee Agency. About one in every two migrants crossing the Mediterranean in 2015—half a million people—were Syrians escaping the conflict and persecution in their homeland.
The jacket itself comprises Tyvek, a durable and lightweight sheeting that is permeable to air and water vapor but resistant to rain. For insulation, the students used Mylar, the same polyester film found in “space blankets” designed to reduce heat loss from a person’s body. The garment has a number of deep pockets for stowing personal items, as well.
“When people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution, they often leave with only the clothes on their backs and undertake what can be very long journeys in very difficult conditions,” a spokesperson from the UN Refugee Agency told the Guardian. “[We’re] always looking at how design and technology can be used to improve our emergency response. With the proper testing, the RCA’s concept could be an innovative way to address the need for shelter for people who have lost everything.”
Not everyone’s a fan, though. Nick Harvey from the voluntary health organization Doctors of the World found the coat too flimsy for the harsh environments many refugees face. “It’s great that they’re trying to help. But it’s not going to be particularly effective if the temperature is minus 10 and you’re trudging through the Balkans,” he said. “It looks more suitable for festival-going or possibly even for the U.K. homeless.”
In the project’s defense, it’s only in its prototype stage. It still needs testing and improving, hence the call for crowdfunding. (It’s adaptability for music festivals may even serve it well by way of a future “buy one, give one” scheme.)
“I know that this could seem naive and fluffy,” Harriss, a senior tutor at the RCA. “But it was born out of a sense of powerlessness to help the people pouring out of Syria. As designers, we are doing what we can with what we have.”
[Via the Guardian]