At Humanity Crew we always believe in innovation to conduct our First Response Mental Health interventions work better. To achieve this inspiration, we are on the constant lookout for innovative and creative creators to work together with.
For our first edition of Innovation, we collaborated with the Professors and students at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, Canada to create the "Safe Room".
Meet the Creators of Safe Room
Meet our creators Yi Zhang and Siqi Wang from China, graduates of Master of Architecture (professional) from the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, the University of Toronto in Canada.
What inspired you to create something for refugees and mental health?
As a part of the research process for our design in Prof. In Aziza Chaouni’s class titled Designing for the 99%, we were shocked by the fact that there are over 70 million people in the world today who have been forced to leave their homes because of violence, persecution and war. More importantly, migrants who have been forced to leave their home are likely to experience stressors which may lead to mental health problems and the rates of mental health disorders are higher among refugee populations in comparison to the general population. Using architecture’s space making capability, we wanted to create safe spaces for the refugees to receive mental health first aid and a better work environment for the mental health professionals on the front line.
We are also inspired by emerging socially engaged architectural practices. Architecture is often a market-driven profession and this emerging practice aims to shift it to a mix of activism and social enterprise. As architecture students, we deeply believe in the power of architecture and its problem solving ability. We want to use our knowledge and skill sets to contribute to address the societal questions of our time and to solve real world challenges.
What were the process and the stories behind the creation of "Safe Room"?
The project was initiated from our design class - Designing for the 99% led by Prof. Aziza Chaouni in January 2020, and she continued to be our design advisor throughout the process. In the class, we were asked to design a portable safe room for Humanity Crew and Dr. Essam was our guest critic. After 10 weeks of research and design, we came up with the idea of designing an inflatable tent. It was designed based on a modular system, which maximized its flexibility and allowed it to combine multiple units into one larger structure depending on different conditions. Besides, it was lightweight and very easy to set up.
Our design was later awarded a Covid-19 student Engagement Award by the University of Toronto. We then used the grant to further develop the design and successfully built 2 fully functional prototypes. Since it was not a common structural system, only a few places were able to give it a shot. We contacted manufacturers from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and finally decided to work with a manufacturer from Guangdong China. We spent the whole summer in 2020 finding innovative water-proof recycled fabric and developing an appropriate structure that is light enough to carry around and strong enough to withstand the wind. In september, we finally made it work.
How do you envision the Safe Room in the future?
The safe room will be improved through an iterative design process. We will collect feedback from the field and gather insight from the users to continue developing the design and to make it easier to use for the first aid mental health professionals working on the front line. Our next step focuses on improving the flexibility, modularity, and expandability of the safe room by realizing its potential to be assembled into various configurations such as emergency classrooms. We hope this product will be widely adopted to create a better experience for refugees, people in crises, and front line mental health professionals.
What is your future plan after Safe Room/University?
We will both pursue design and architecture after university. It is our interest and we hope to contribute in shaping the future.