LifeShelter® is inspired by a shelter project in Bolivia with historical links back to ancient shelter traditions. Vault Arches has been used through history as an optimized way to obtain shelter. 6000 years old vaults still stand in Nubia by The Nile.

500 houses inspired by the Vault Arches were built in Altiplano, Bolivia during the 1990s. This project was lead by the danish architect Lars Jørgen Jacobsen. 



The Nubian Vault

Every building, from the smallest nesting box to the largest cathedral, needs an opening to its surroundings. Vaults have been used to avoid the collapse of openings in buildings for thousands of years. Through time, a lot of different styles of vaults have dominated architectural tendencies.

The Romanesque style, characterized by semi-circular arches, dominated the medieval Europe (Photo 1). It evolved into the gothic style, characterised by pointed arches (Photo 2). The vault secures passage of either sunlight or people while maintaining the stability of the building by leading forces around it. However popular these architectural styles have been, there is another interesting shape of convexity appearing that has appeared in construction through time. A This shape is older than mankind. A shape, founded on physical laws. A shape that is and ultimately -suited for a uniformly uniformly-distributed load. The This shape is the catenary (Photo 3).

The Catenary is the name of the shape formed by a hanging chain or a rope with negligible stiffness. This shape can be turned aroundinverted to make form the ultimate compression arch (Photo 4). One of the first discovered earliest discovered places where this shape has been was used by man is some a 6000-years old cluster of tombs in Nubia by the Nile (Photo 5). The largest manmade construction of thisthat uses this design is also the world’s largest monument. : The Gateway Arch,  in Saint Louis, USA (Photo 6). This steel monument is 192 m tall. It is was designed as a rotated catenary. The Construction of the Gateway Arch was finished completed in 1968.

(Photo 5 in this section is a courtesy of architect Lars Jørgen Jakobsen. Photo 1-4 and 6 are borrowed from Wikipedia)

6000 Years old buildings - The Nubian Vault.
Vaults through history
Danish International Settlement Service in Bolivia
Smallholding Bolivia
Adobe house Bolivia

The Bolivian Plateau

The look and shape of the parabola-shaped shelters have clear inspirational links to adobe houses found in Bolivia[1]. This conceptual building method was started by the Danish Architect Lars Jørgen Jakobsen in the 1990s.

In the 1990s, the Danish International Settlement Services (DIB)proposed a new concept for house construction in Altiplano, Bolivia (Photo 12). The houses were built with very small budget, and local residents provided the primary labor (Photo 13). The houses are parabola-shaped and have primarily been constructed as vaults of bricks of clay from the local region.

Hundreds of these houses were built, and the team from DIB made efforts to make the new building concept a trend (Photo 14). This was accomplished partly by educating locals, but also by inspiring younger generations in the schools. Children were even shown how to construct small dollhouses based on the same design.

In this regard, a series of low-tech solutions for regulation of the indoor climate have been designed and tested. An example of this, a solar panel, can be seen in Photo 15.

The houses have no immediate nsulation, but they accumulate warmth during the day to exploit at night.

Architect Claus Hedding has, for a period, lived in Bolivia to help building these parabola houses of clay. This has been particularly inspirational to the design of shelters using rigid foam.

Shelters of insulating foam have a number of other benefits that are essential for a speedy and appropriate rehousing process. The rigid foam shelter shells are not intended as a substitute for the adobe houses of clay. Foam shelters should, rather, serve as a more efficient solution in disaster areas where clay, wood and steel are in short supply.

Statements based upon conversations with Architect Lars Jørgen Jakobsen, DIS (Danish International Settlement Service)

(Photos in this section is a courtesy of architect Lars Jørgen Jakobsen)