Homelessness, Design Research Insitute RMIT, Melbourne, Australia [Exhibition]


This project aims to improve existing crisis accommodation by meeting end user needs more effectively. To this end, it makes unique use of parametric design tools and Panorama VR software with the target users – homeless youth . included in the interactive research process. Parametric software is used as a tool to generate a hybrid model that can be adjusted as required for difference programs or housing needs. Introducing Panorama VR as an engine for communication and true codesign enhances the design process. The use of interactive visualisation tools involving homeless youth in their own housing design also produces a sense of ownership, integrated and collaborative design.

The team focused on a specific demographic – homeless youth – because of the impact this intervention would have on them in the future. Statistically, “Children who experience homelessness are more likely to be homeless as adults and raise families that become homeless” (Homelessness Australia, 2010). It is therefore critical that young people who experience homelessness can access services which create a supportive environment for them, both physically and emotionally. In other words, early intervention and prevention are critical to avoid chronic homelessness. Re-integration of young people at an early stage into a safe environment breaks that vicious cycle, and crisis accommodation as early as possible in the cycle can play an important role. In NSW there are around 40 specialist homelessness services that provide crisis and emergency accommodation for young people. These services usually consist of a typical residential house which young people house share with other young people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness (YFoundations, 2011). Youth workers are available 24 hours a day to assist with accommodation needs, to develop living skills and help with accessing appropriate services and programs. However, the typology of the “typical house” does not always provide the appropriate space for youth needs or enough space to develop services and programs on-site. Many of these houses were donated in the 1980s as surplus housing and as they were not designed for this specific use, they often limit the service potential. The physical design of crisis accommodation facilities has a direct influence on how the young person experiences crisis accommodation.

Nathalie Santamaria, MArch, University of Technology, Sydney . Affordable housing
Ben Coorey, Lecturer at UTS, School of Architecture . Parametric Design
Namju Lee, Director and Founder of NJ Design Lab Architecture . Media, Computation and Visualization
Dr Michael Coffey, Chief Executive Officer, YFoundations . Public Policy
Dr Andrew Burrow, Executive Director at RMIT’s SIAL – DRI brokered mentor

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