A Middle Eastern architect has created a portable, solar-powered refugee shelter which derives its inspiration from the nomadic lifestyle of her Bedouin forbears.

The portable shelter developed by Jordanian-Canadian architect Abeer Seikaly consists of a collapsible woven structural fabric equipped with an ingenious set of water and solar energy installations, purpose designed to provide basic amenities to people who have been displaced from their homes by political turmoil or natural disaster.

The shelters bear little resemblance to conventional tents, possessing a sturdy dome-like shape and a striking tessellating pattern on their exterior, which is the product of the unique structure of the tent’s woven fabric. This unique structure enables the tent to “collapse” vertically like the gills of an accordion or an origami lantern, making it far easier to set up and pack away then a traditional fold-up tent.

The broad leaf-like shapes that comprise the external surface’s interlocking pattern also double as windows, which can be flipped open to provide ventilation in torrid weather conditions.

The exterior skin of the shelter is capable of harvesting solar radiation and converting it into usable energy, providing electricity to occupants in the absence of established power infrastructure. This means refugees or disaster victims will have access to energy for lighting in the evening, as well as their heating or cooling needs during harsh climate conditions.

To provide for two of the most essential living requirements of human beings – water and basic hygiene – the shelter comes equipped with a thermosiphoning and drainage system. The thermosiphoning system draws water to the top of the shelter where it is deposited into a spherical storage tank, which is conveniently situated to allow users of the shelter to shower.

Seikaly, who is currently based in Jordan, said the portable structures could play a vital role in helping refugees overcome the arduous, transitional process of displacement from their original homes –  a problem which could worsen in future as a result of climate change and political strife around the globe.

“This lightweight, mobile structural fabric could potentially close the gap between need and desire as people metaphorically weave their lives back together, physically weaving their built environment into a place both new and familiar, transient and rooted, private and connected,” she said. “In this space,the refugees find a place to pause from their turbulence worlds, a place to weave the tapestry of their new lives. They weave their shelter into home.”