Finalist 2020


SheltAir / Swinburne University of Technology / Enzie

The global need for disaster relief shelters is sadly increasing at an alarming rate.

Currently, there are nearly 80m displaced people globally. This is due to an increase in conflicts, the disastrous effects of climate change and now a global pandemic. These crises require a rapid humanitarian response which is often fraught with political and economic problems. Most existing shelter designs are not fit for purpose typically underperforming in structural integrity, waterproofing, size, speed of erection and most of all, liveability. SheltAir delivers a radically new shelter design that breaks new ground offering an innovative, beautiful and humane solution.

Design Excellence

SheltAir rethinks shelter design from every angle. Not only is SheltAir modular, lightweight and easy to transport: it is also demountable, reusable and beautifully designed. SheltAir is a robust and elegant gridshell structure (not a tent!) and erected by nothing other than air. Its biomimetic design takes inspiration from shells and its soft and sensual form provides its users with a place ideal for mental and physical healing – something that most other shelters fail to do. The shape of the gridshell, the choice of materials and even the colours have been selected to achieve the highest levels of quality.

Design Impact

Large-span shelters for communal gatherings are not catered for in refugee camps due to the necessary prioritisation of family dwellings. Military field hospitals are complex constructions and difficult to erect. Temporary shelters for homes lost to climate disasters are typically inadequate and degrade quickly. SheltAir is so revolutionary that it offers genuine and novel solutions to each of these problems. SheltAir is completely reusable and uses the least amount of material as possible. The strength to weight ratio is phenomenal, it has a tiny carbon footprint but delivers a significant and positive environmental and social impact.

Design Transformation

The novelty of the SheltAir design cannot be understated, nothing like this exists in the world. SheltAir was developed and optimised in academia and now we’re proud to partner with Victoria’s own Enzie Spiral Staircases to begin series production and global distribution. We aim to revolutionise shelter design and quality for people in need. We will demonstrate the next iteration of SheltAir at the prestigious ‘open house’ exhibition in Geneva next to the UN in 2021. We are proud to also be working with Victorian firms C.E. Bartlett Pty Ltd and Tex Connex Pty Ltd on the membrane fabrication.

Design Innovation

The shelter crisis is very real and in desperate need of innovation, particularly now during a global pandemic. SheltAir was made possible not just by implementing a good idea. It took years of research and prototyping. A novel and custom computational simulation was developed in order to analyse the pneumatic erection process and to determine precisely which shapes are possible and which are not. Beyond the digital, innovations have been achieved in the physical design as well. E.g. the laser-cut steel end connectors feature a sailing cleat design which is vital to the speed and feasibility of the erection method.

Architectural Design 2020 Finalists

Bardolph Gardens

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Breathe Architecture

Ona Coffee

Breathe Architecture

In Absence

Edition Office / Yhonnie Scarce / National Gallery of Victoria

State Library Victoria Vision 2020 Redevelopment

Architectus / Schmidt Hammer Lassen / SLV

Bayswater Early Years Hub

k20 Architecture / Knox City Council

RMIT Capitol Theatre

Six Degrees Architects / Michael Taylor Architects / GHD / Slattery / Schuler Shook

Reservoir Station

Genton / McGregor Coxall

Rod Laver Arena

COX Architecture / Development Victoria / Melbourne & Olympic Parks / Lendlease


Cumulus Studio / Arts Centre Melbourne

Jackalope Pavilion

March Studio / Jackalope Group / Random International / CodBuild