- Laura-India A. Garinois, B.Arch. 2017
ClassARCH 5902 Design X: Thesis
The European Migrant Crisis is a first of its kind in the digital age. Technology has become a lifeline, which many refugees deem to be even more essential than food or shelter. Refugees are using their mobile phones to communicate, navigate, socialize, and for digital scrapbooking.
Access to WiFi and electricity have been the two largest digital concerns. Due to lack of support from governments towards the presence of refugees, the project focuses on the design of a small-scale self-sufficient guerilla product. The next challenge is materiality: as thousands of life jackets are disposed of on the shore of Lesvos after refugees arrive, the project delved into the possibilities of recycling and reconfiguring the existing materials from abandoned life jackets into a new design.
The Live Jacket folds into various forms: a life jacket, regular jacket, sleeping unit, and connects into aggregated spaces. Technology is also embedded, transforming the jacket into an autonomous WiFi shelter, electricity hub, and habitation node — responding to basic needs while providing refugees with a digital platform.
The jacket is sewn together and mainly composed of Tyvek — a waterproof and durable material. Embedded solar fabric collects and stores the sun's energy with miniature solar cells. A friction fabric produces electricity through triboelectricity. These features allow users to plug their devices into the jacket's charging zone. A 30c single broadband antenna is sewn into the jacket, providing WiFi. The hexagonal zone is inflatable along its seams, acting as structure when the jacket is aggregated with other jackets via zippers.
WiFi becomes a catalyst for interaction between refugees and locals: a local Greek can walk up to a refugee in order to get connected. The aggregated spaces serve as social pop-up spaces for refugees and locals, shifting the ways public spaces are formed in Greece.