What is Project Life Line and why is it worthy of our support?

As we are all too depressingly aware, there are scores of armed conflicts raging in the world today. These often result in displaced populations, which leaves the UN and other relief agencies scrambling to provide temporary shelter, water, medical care, etc., mostly in the form of what end up as tent-cities. In addition, populations all over the world are regularly subject to famine, storms, earthquakes, and other disasters which also result in large numbers of displaced people.

Shabby_unit_1 Shabbir Kazmi is an upcoming New York architect who has thought up an elegant and brilliant solution of the why-hasn’t-anyone-else-done-this? variety, for the provision of medical care, shelter, drinking water, and energy for these situations: he has designed medical mobile-units which can pump and purify ground-water and also collected rain water, which deploy solar-panels and wind-turbines for electricity, and which fit right into standard shipping containers. The beauty of this scheme is that these containers are cheaply available, and most important of all, they are designed to be shipped, so, can be gotten anywhere in the world in large numbers very quickly, by ship and/or train, and then by truck. There are several types of container-based units that can be deployed to an afflicted region, such as mobile medical-units, mobile dwelling-units (which may contain other emergency supplies, such as food aid, blankets, etc.), and school and dormitory units.

Architecture is a field which usually brings to mind the glamorous housing of the rich, the glitzy office towers of commerce, or the fancy designs of the buildings which in our secular society function as shrines to high art: museums. It is a testament to Shabbir’s inventiveness, as well as to his acutely developed moral sense, that he has chosen to apply his ample architectural talents in a socially conscious way. As he said to me, “Architecture is not just a luxury profession, we can actually save lives.”

Shabbir has started a non-profit organization called Project Life-Line which will build the first prototypes for these container-based systems in the next few months. They are raising funds and are having a benefit concert on December 6, 2004, this coming Monday, in Manhattan. Please check out details of the project at http://www.project-lifeline.org and do come to the concert if you can. (Click on “Who We Are” and on “Project” at the site.) This is surely a very worthwhile project, please support it as best you can. Thank you