Architecture may not be the answer to all contemporary crises, yet, most of the challenges the world is facing nowadays can be addressed through design. Global warming is one of the hottest topics indeed, but one must not neglect all other emergencies that can already be referred to as synonymous with today’s society. The refugee crisis is of utmost importance, and the way architects and designers approach this matter might bring about a change.

Most of the designs proposed on this matter focus on sheltering great numbers of refugees, yet they omit qualitative aspects of the experiences in such camps. Keeping in mind that staying in such facilities can overpass decades (the average duration is of about 17 years), their planning must elevate the comfort level experienced by the refugees. 

After all, such camps have to tackle, besides the day-to-day functionality, stress-relief aspects. Considering these people’s traumatizing loss of their everyday lives, it’s the designer’s responsibility to respect their emotional stability and seek solutions to address it. 

Lots of architects, some even STARchitects, responded to these problems, yet there is much more to be done. The article presents one example to prove that major changes reside even in those small things that are often taken for granted: sanitary amenities.

Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms, by Ze-Hong Mo 

The Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms' are quick to set up for refugee camps designed by Ze-Hong Mo - Sheet1
Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms, by Ze-Hong Mo_©

Providing everyday shower possibilities to people in refugee camps is vital. Ze-Hong Mo understood this and proposed an ingenious foldable bathroom solution that can be installed in a matter of minutes. In this way, the problem of private shower facilities is solved without the need for a substantial infrastructure and besides, when no longer needed, these foldable units can be unfolded and relocated.

The Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms' are quick to set up for refugee camps designed by Ze-Hong Mo - Sheet2
Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms – mounting stages_©

As their designer claims, the Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms are not meant to substitute portaloos but to complement them and enhance the overall experience refugees have during their temporary stay in the camp. The showering solution comes as one folded clapboard which can be installed in situ within minutes, considering all the details “like the floor panels, doors, plumbing, and other attachments.” 

As Ze-Hong Mo describes the process: “Once the clapboard is assembled, the shower-head (which flat-packs too) can easily be assembled along with a foot-powered pump at its base. The final step involves mounting the door units and the elevated floorboards which allow the water to drain from underneath. Water for showering can be pumped through an inlet on the side, although if the water pressure ever drops, a foot-pump in each showering booth lets people easily pump their own water as they bathe.”

The Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms' are quick to set up for refugee camps designed by Ze-Hong Mo - Sheet3
Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms – water cycle_©

In addition to their fast and simple assembly, the foldable bathroom units are highly effective in terms of space management. Once no longer needed their dismounting takes no longer than the time needed to set the units up. After that, when the refugee camp serves its purpose and becomes obsolete, the foldable bathroom can be unplugged, turned back to its clapboard state, and relocated, if necessary. When folded, 10 such showering booths occupy no more than “a fraction of the space on the back of a cargo truck.” 

The Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms' are quick to set up for refugee camps designed by Ze-Hong Mo - Sheet4
Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms – ways of folding_©

For sure, such an inventive design could not have been overlooked and for this reason, the Speedy Collapsible Bathrooms designed by Ze-Hong Mo won the Golden Pin Design Award for the year 2020.



Ștefan is a resourceful and professional young architect. Thirsty for innovation and knowledge, he is always willing to share his passions with the ones around. He finds himself intrigued by the tinniest of wonders and considers words just another material to build up with endless, brand-new possibilities.