Humanitarian Architecture The Warsaw Homeless Shelter

Humanitarian Architecture The Warsaw Homeless Shelter
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In 2023, xystudio undertook the ambitious task of designing a modern shelter in Warsaw, Poland, for the homeless, disabled, and sick individuals under the care of Sister Małgorzata Chmielewska’s Foundation Chleb Życia. This project aimed to replace two existing shelters in poor condition, offering temporary accommodation and essential services to those in need.

Addressing the Context

The shelter caters to individuals who often lack personal documents and access to public health services. To accommodate their unique needs, the design includes facilities for establishing identity, obtaining documents, and receiving medical assistance. Additionally, the pandemic prompted the inclusion of isolation rooms and medical tents, enhancing the shelter’s resilience.

Blending with the Surroundings

Situated amidst an industrial landscape, the architectural challenge was to harmonize with the surroundings while providing a sense of dignity to the residents. The design features a simple geometric block with a concrete base, complemented by subtle wooden elements. The facade, inspired by the neighborhood’s rusty tones, seamlessly integrates into the urban fabric.

A Place of Sanctuary

Central to the shelter is a chapel constructed with Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), offering solace and tranquility to residents. The design prioritizes comfort and hope, providing a space for prayer and meditation. The chapel’s flexible design allows for integration with the communal living area, fostering a sense of community among residents.

Enhancing Quality of Life

The shelter’s interior layout prioritizes functionality and accessibility. Bright colors, contrasting floor patterns, and clear signage contribute to a safe and welcoming environment. Shared spaces promote social interaction, while private bedrooms ensure privacy and dignity. Additionally, the inclusion of medical facilities and support services enhances residents’ well-being.

Sustainability and Efficiency

Innovative construction techniques, such as prestressed concrete beams and roof windows, maximize natural light and ventilation, reducing energy consumption. The shelter’s design incorporates eco-friendly materials and efficient utilities, aligning with principles of sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

Ensuring Accessibility

The shelter is fully accessible for individuals with disabilities, featuring wide corridors, adapted toilets, and emergency assistance systems. Barrier-free design elements, including ramps and level paths, ensure equal access for all residents, regardless of mobility limitations.


The Warsaw Homeless Shelter by xystudio exemplifies the transformative power of architecture in serving marginalized communities. Through thoughtful design, the shelter provides not only physical shelter but also dignity, hope, and a sense of belonging to those in crisis. As a beacon of compassion and resilience, it stands as a testament to the potential of architecture to address social challenges and foster inclusivity in our cities.

Written By
Bo Wu

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