Friday, November 21, 2008


Every night there are hundreds of people that spent the tiny hours on the streets, simply because they are homeless. Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz thought up of a solution. paraSITE.

paraSITE is a temporary tent for the homeless that is made from two layers of sturdy plastic. So why temporary? Well, the 'tent' features an air tube which can be attatched to an air vent of a big building (those things blow warm air 24/7, unused warmth that goes up in the sky). The warm air fills the two-layered tent in no-time and there you have it, paraSITE.

The air vent is nicely visible here and the tent is still inflating. But when it's filled up it provides a roof and bed for someone who doesn't have that on a regular basis. And it's also nice and warm. From an environmental perspective paraSITE is awesome, it uses energy (the hot air) that would have gone to waste otherwise. But from a legal perspective it's not so cool. The law says you can't just put up your tent on the sidewalk. But Rakowitz found a hole in the law and designed another model.

It's maybe a bit hard to see but the paraSITE is laying at the back. Now it's not that much of a tent anymore, Rakowitz made it a bag; comparable to a sleeping bag. Now that the tent part is mostly gone officers can't say "You're violating law x here so please get your stuff together and leave" anymore. The above photograph was actually taken during a meetup of a homeless man who spent the night in the sleeping bag and an officer. This is what Rakowitz writes about the situation on his website:
"We designed his shelter to be closer to the ground, more like a sleeping bag or some kind of body extension. Thus, if questioned by the police, he could argue that the law did not apply because the shelter was not, in fact, a tent. On more than one occasion, Michael was confronted by police officers. After measuring his shelter, the officers moved on."
How fun is it to find holes in the law use them to a good extent.



carla said...

That's amazing, consider how many lives the paraSITE could be saving! And yes, it is always fun to find the loop holes in our law enforcement system. The other day in my California Government and Politics class, a student asked the professor if the city police could still catch him if he drove off onto the freeway...what? Now of course they can but my point is, people (especially college kids) are constantly looking for these ways to tip toe around the law and the fact that Mr. Rakowitz found one that worked is pretty amazing.

jackson said...

That's amazing. Unfortunately named, but full of heart.

julius said...

That's an interesting remark you made there Jackson. Because the name isn't totally correct, at least according to what they told me in biology class and what they say on wikipedia.
The definition of parasitism is two organisms co-existing with the one benefiting while the other one has harm.
Now, if you apply that to our situation here the building could be one organism and the tent could be the other. The tent feeds of the building, right? But does the building (or company that owns the building) suffer from anything? I don't think so.
So instead of calling this parasitism they prefer to call it commensalism in the field of biology (one organism has benefits and the other one isn't harmed). And logically the project would have to be renamed commensaLIST, but does that sound as good?

jackson said...

As good? It sounds ten thousand times better.

Yeah, I didn't agree with the parasitism classification either. It's more like a symbiosis.

I wonder if it causes the heating system any detriment to have its outflow blocked, even to the minor degree we see here?

I guess the answer to that would clarify our thinking.

Great post mon ami, very thought provoking.

jackson said...

also, perhaps it could be called the coMENSAlist.

jackson said...

Oh and also:


Ha ha ha!


spoon said...

Brilliant idea, and well-timed too.

Anonymous said...

That rocks I love it. Keep it up!