Little Shelters – Students Build Desert Shelters on a Budget of $2,000

This project comes from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Taliesin West. Titled “Little Shelters”, it’s been completed by students who were given a small fixed budget, and were required to create a feasible shelter in the desert.


Photograph by Nathan Rist

The completed shelter was built on-site, in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona with the help of Little Maps. The design and build class originally required each of the students to produce their own shelter.


Little Shelters - Taliesin West - Arizona - Interior - Humble Homes

However, the harsh weather of the desert forced the instructors to rethink their approach. Instead a team of 7 students collaborated and built three temporary units. They were tasked with using as many on-site materials and resources as possible, but were also granted a budget of $2,000 from the school.


Photograph by Nathan Rist

Inexpensive materials were purchased from local suppliers, such as the wood framing and panelling, and the corrugated steel sheeting. The shelters feature a lightweight timber frame that’s braced in places with plywood. The remaining sections of the wall are filled in with a sheet material.

The steel roof is raised to allow airflow, reducing heat gain and helping with heat dissipation. Timber slats have been used to create an additional storage space just under the roof. The entire project took 12 weeks to complete and resulted in two shelters, and a gathering space.

I often hear people saying that tiny houses on wheels should be used to provide accommodation for the homeless, something which I don’t entirely agree with. Tiny houses aren’t cheap, and per square foot are usually more expensive than your traditional home. Instead, I feel the low-tech approach – not dissimilar to these shelters – could be more effective (as a last resort when their aren’t more permanent solutions).

For more shelters check out these whimsical single-person retreats for the homeless by Gregory Kloehn. Or, “Bottle Seedling House”, a low-energy shelter that protects plants and people from typhoons in Vietnam. See all shelters.

Via ArchDaily
Photos: Nathan Rist

Niall Burke

Structural engineer by day, tiny house designer by night. Niall has a keen interest in small spaces, green design, and sustainability. He started developing Humble Homes while studying for his masters degree in engineering. He is the founder and managing editor of Humble Homes.

  1. I agree with you about tiny houses on wheels for the homeless. How would a homeless person get a truck to pull it, gas to move the truck, or a legal place to park? None of that is cheap.

  2. I hope readers will take in the whole “little maps” site. These students give one hope for the future whether they design buildings or run for public office.