Where humanity meets hope

Location      Cairo, Egypt
Total GFA    450,000 sq.m
Status          Unbuilt
Client           Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities

World Architecture Festival 2019

WAFx Ethics & Value Award
Finalist in Compeition Entry

Cairo Design Award

Honorable Mention

MEAA | Middle East Architect Award

Finalist Concept Design of the year 2018
Sustanible Project of the year 2017


At the heart of Sheltainer stands the monumental element of shipping containers, offering a simple and practical solution to one of the most basic human needs–a roof over one’s head. We believe this element encapsules the core of the project, which aims to address the accommodation needs of low-income families, students, and refugees. This objective is partially based on a micro-housing solution set to aid less fortunate members of society by analysing the living needs of such people on developing countries.

To further specify our objective with Sheltainer, we address the needs of a specific disadvantaged community in Cairo, Egypt. The individuals
whom we chose to focus on were living in the inhospitable space of cemeteries–bodies of the living and dead literally cohabiting side-by-side. This issue is just one part of a larger housing problem in Egypt, and by tackling it with a compassionate and proactive approach, we hope to set a professional and moral imperative as designers and homebuilders.

Additionally, Sheltainer represents one of the highest points in our professional career here at Verform. After winning the second prize in the
Future House event and being highly commended in the Middle East Architect Awards in 2017, we are moving ahead to complete our vision with this project. Sheltainer was also nominated in two categories at the World Architecture Festival: Future Project, and WAFx Ethics and Value. We feel this reinforces our housing equity vision for Sheltainer, and emphasises its value to Cairo’s society, and the less fortunate individuals inhabiting it. 

We believe the effort amongst men, women, and children to sustain dignity and hope when living in inhospitable conditions is nothing short of heroic. Facing the huge challenge to retain their humanity as individuals, and a feeling of grace and compassion towards fellow neighbours, they deserve housing that will acknowledge their efforts.

The Micro Challenge
Our design focuses on how one house can have the potential to be used singularly or as a family home, essentially  ddressing the needs of a single human being scaling up to those of an entire neighbourhood. The one home can then be combined into a cluster of eight dwellings, thus creating a small neighbourhood surrounding a green open space.

The Macro Challenge
By removing the graves from the heart of Cairo, Sheltainer provides new areas for development in one of the most expensive areas of land in the country. It gives Cairo an opportunity to renew itself and take a breath, along with new residences for people and transportation infrastructure network to alleviate the congestion that has blighted the city for many years.

Rendering showing how container structures could form a new neighborhood.

Units and Building Typologies

All communities are dependent on a combination of living, working, and community spaces. What makes each of them unique is not only the architectural character, but also the integration of structures into open areas. Each space then emphasizes the connectivity between individuals to form and further develop their community. The variety of housing prototypes we have designed function similarly to the people living in them: they stand alone but can come together to form neighbourhoods and eventually a city. Social factors, scale, proximity to workplaces, and green spaces have all been considered in order to create differing typologies for Sheltainer

Aerial View shows how the container is used in retail & residential clusters.

Diagrams illustrating souk components and typologies.

Units and Building Typologies

By creating an interconnecting network of open spaces with wind catchers, solar power collectors, water harvesting, and growing vegetation in a previously unused space, Sheltainer brings a new dimension to what a cityscape can be.

A diagram of a typical ‘cluster’ cohousing development illustrating the key sustanbile principles

Thinking of the urban economy
In designing Sheltainer, we wanted to deeply reflect on the role the informal economy plays into sustaining the lives of those underfunded communities the project is made to serve. The informal economy is impulsive an autonomous and grows quicker than any other economic system. It appears on the surface to be random and chaotic, but is governed by unwritten and fully understood laws. It is based on immediate needs of the populace, provides income for members of society whom the state has failed to care for, and contributes to the growth of urban populations across the world. The informal economy is also not limited to any one country or political system. It exists purely through the necessity of human beings to survive on a day-to-day basis.

Legalising the informal market and including it in the national economy benefits all. Facilitating licensing procedures protects both supplier and customer while reduced fees for existing small businesses provide opportunities for sustainable growth. The formal economy then benefits through an influx of entrepreneurial spirit and dynamism.

Life still resides behind walls containing death.

Rendering show the cluster roof top and courtyard design.

Cluster Different typology with the pigeon lofts for local pigeon fanciers to breed birds