Ikea flat-pack shelter for refugees wins Design of the Year

The portable shelter (above) features a solar panel on the roof to power a light and charge a mobile phone.
The portable shelter (above) features a solar panel on the roof to power a light and charge a mobile phone. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - A flat-pack shelter used to house refugees has won a prestigious design award, beating art work on the cover of singer David Bowie's final album and a surgical robot.

The portable shelter, that features a solar panel on the roof to power a light and charge a mobile phone, won the 2016 Beazley Design of the Year Award.

Developed by Swedish social enterprise Better Shelter with the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) and the IKEA Foundation, the weather-proof shelter comes with the tools need for assembly and can be erected in four hours by four people.

Each modular structure, made from recyclable plastic, is large enough to house a family of five.

Better Shelter said it had delivered 16,000 shelters to Iraq, Djibouti, Niger, Ethiopia, Nepal, Greece, Macedonia and Chad.

Johan Karlsson, interim managing director of Better Shelter, said it was with mixed emotions that he accepted the award presented at the Design Museum in London late on Thursday (Jan 26).

"While we are pleased that this kind of design is honoured, we are aware that it has been developed in response to the humanitarian needs that have arisen as the result of the refugee crisis," he said in a statement.

Other contenders for the award included the cover of Bowie's Blackstar album, which won best graphic design of the year, and OpenSurgery, which replaces operating theatres with a robot armed with a laser cutter and 3D printer.