Living With Less: Picnic Table Turns Into Shelter

sean godsell bench housing image overall

When Bonnie covered the 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces show at the Victoria and Albert, she missed Sean Godsell's Picnic Table House, a clever idea where a picnic table by day becomes a homeless shelter by night.

sean godsell bench housing image end

The architect is quoted on Designboom:

The table top folds down and is supported on the bench seats to make a roof. a woven stainless steel mattress and protective frame is supported between the legs of the table. Survival kits, packed remotely by volunteer workers or emergency relief agencies can be locked into position under the bench seats either side of the mattress. The survival kits would contain separately food, bedding, hot drinks, a light and a first aid kid. Once emptied a survival pack becomes secure stowage while sleeping.

sean godsell bench housing image drawing

A commenter on Designboom raised some interesting points in objection to this idea:

This actually goes against conventional design of public space. Public benches for example are purposely designed to discourage homeless people sleeping on them (look for unnecessary arm rails next time you see a bench).

Would you want to eat on a table that smelled like a homeless person? Are you going to ask the homeless person to move once you want to picnic? Homeless people are territorial, a habitat as nice as that would be guarded carefully. They'd set up camp with their few possessions and never leave. It appears very little research was done for this project.


That is a harsh conclusion, given that Sean Godsell has been researching the issue of housing for the homeless and living in small spaces for 25 years, and was the designer of Future Shack, one of the first, and best, ideas for containerized housing.

What do you think?

Related Content on