LONDON –– A flat-pack refugee shelter developed by Ikea and the United Nations has been named the best design of 2016.
Awarded the Beazley Design of the Year award, presented by the Design Museum in London, the modular Better Shelter is made from recyclable plastic, comprises only 68 components, and can be assembled in as few as four hours.
Each structure is large enough to house a family of five, and includes a solar panel to power lights and charge devices. Since production started in 2015, 16,000 units have been delivered to countries around the world including Iraq, Djibouti, Greece and Niger, to be used as homes, temporary clinics and offices.
“Better Shelter tackles one of the defining issues of the moment: providing shelter in an exceptional situation whether caused by violence or disaster,” said juror Jana Scholze, an associate professor of curating contemporary design at Kingston University, in a statement.
Read: How to build a stylish home for less than $30K
“Providing not only a design, but secure manufacture as well as distribution makes this project relevant and even optimistic. It shows the power of design to respond to the conditions we are in and transform them.”
The shelter triumphed over more eye-catching nominees, including an Adidas running shoe made of recycled plastic retrieved from the ocean; Grafton Architects’ Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología building in Lima, Peru, which won the 2016 RIBA International Prize; and Herzog & de Meuron’s new addition to London’s Tate Modern.
This isn’t the first time that social impact has won out over glamour for the top prize.
Last year, a microchip-like device that can mimic the functions of human organs beat out Google’s self-driving car, Fondation Louis Vuitton’s Frank Gehry-designed museum, and a Star Wars-inspired runway collection by Rodarte, among other entries.
Read: Top designers imagine the year 2066
A coffee cup designed for use aboard spacecrafts, David Bowie’s “Blackstar” cover, and a smart bicycle helmet were among the other designs honored this year, winning their individual categories.
All nominated projects are on display at the Design Museum until February 19, 2017.