Migrant Worker Shelter

California - 1966

Hirshen Van der Ryn with associated architects designed and executed thirty-three camps between 1965 and 1974 to shelter migrant farm workers throughout the State of California.  These Camps were to provide shelter and support for large families and be demountable.  The shelters were to last for a maximum of five years, and be environmentally responsive to the intense heat and high winds of the California Central Valley and surrounding rural areas.

A camp was erected at Indio with 100 Plydomes set on a five-acre site.  The Plydome was conceived by inventor Herbert Yates and made from Kraft paper bonded to a polyurethane core formed into pleated shapes.  Being both folded plate and an arch, the structures was light but highly rigid.  The camp at Indio became an evolving model for thirty-one more camps in California through the next decade. For this ongoing project, Hirshen Van der Ryn Architects received the First Governors Design Award in 1966, and the national Honour Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1968.

This text was excerpted from “toward an architecture of conscience” published by the UBC School of Architecture.