Aryana Sherzai

In today’s highly stratified world, modern innovations rarely cater to people across the economic spectrum. Yet, one classic human invention has undergone a major facelift at the hands of modern design: the tent.

Die-hard backpackers and recreational “glampers” alike will appreciate the new ‘Self-generating and Nature-interactive Tent’, designed by South Korea’s IDIM Design Laboratory. Winner of the 2015 Red Dot Award, this visionary concept uses solar energy to ventilate air in and out of the structure, keeping temperatures cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The solar panels also power a sound drum, using funnels to bring the outdoor sounds of nature – birds chirping, rain drizzling – within the comforts of the tent at an enhanced volume.

The tent, with its simple, portable design, has proven timeless throughout history. With varying materials, sizes, and shapes, the tent’s multipurpose design has served military, recreational, and emergency needs.

However, never before has a tent been equipped with electrical power. The application of a renewable, accessible power source to the most basic form of shelter reflects an era of environmental and refugee crises.

While revolutionary for the camping world, the new tent is ultimately intended for the benefit of refugees. The Syrian civil war, consideredthe worst humanitarian crisis of our time” by some, continues to fill the already overcrowded cities in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and other neighbors with over 11 million displaced Syrians. These refugees must make the unimaginable transformation from their comfortable homes to small, powerless tents, if that.

Even materials for makeshift tents are scarce; according to Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid agency, “refugees find shelter wherever they can. Our teams have seen families living in rooms with no heat or running water, in abandoned chicken coops and in storage sheds.” Intended only as temporary, these camps have stretched into provisional communities of war-ravaged Syrians, as their country endures its fifth year of war.

If this revolutionary solar-powered tent can infiltrate these camps on a wide scale, the lives of millions will be affected. A source of regulated temperature inside their homes would be a drastic improvement, especially considering the unusual snowfall occurring in the Middle East in recent winters. A Syrian activist and founder of the humanitarian organization “Syrian Eyes” describes camps in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where “you can smell toxic fumes everywhere – people burn anything they can find, like shoes and plastic, because firewood and diesel are so expensive.”

By introducing temperature-controlled tents, the burning of unconventional, harmful substances should decline among desperate refugees. In order to also provide an alternate source of fuel designers may include a solar-powered stove next.

From backpackers to refugees, the clientele of solar-powered tents come from many backgrounds. While the sound drum, a rather superfluous feature, appeals to the wealthier glamping community, the architects hope their innovation will serve a more humanitarian purpose.

The Red Dot explains that the intent “is to expand each function of the tent and apply them to create a survival shelter for refugees in isolated areas.” After enduring five brutal years, Syrians may be the first to reap the benefits of the evolving tent.