Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mini Motel

It's called The Mini Motel and it's being billed as the solution to canceled flights. For $39.95 you get this portable tent that includes an air mattress and an alarm clock among other amenities. You pop it together in three steps:

Step One:

Step Two:

Step Three:

The webpage suggests other uses:

With the Mini Motel, there is no hotel bill, and no concern about local motels being all booked up. Air, train and bus terminals are all great places to use your Mini Motel. Actually, there are many creative ways that people are using Mini Motel!

It says the Mini Motel was invented by a man named Frank Giotto who has a number of "successful companies" that keep him traveling. After 9-11, Giotto believed security concerns were clogging air traffic and causing the increased cancellation of flights and the subsequent overbooking of nearby hotels.

Which raises some questions: beyond the logistical challenge of adding a tent to your carry on luggage, would this very same post 9-11 security presence allow for these? What about at a train or bus station? And what about the many other *creative* ways of using a Mini Motel? If a homeless person replaced their make-shift tarp canopy with a Mini Motel, would it mean no more rousting by the police at 4 am? Imagine little orange shanty towns popping up in transit stations and on city streets.

Several years ago an artist named Michael Rakowitz wondered what it would mean to create temporary tent shelters for the homeless. He was inspired by the Bedouins, who developed tents that could be easily assembled and that captured the natural ventilation of the desert to keep the interiors cool. He thought about the ventilation of a city like New York, where cold weather was an issue. He developed a concept called the paraSITE, which hooked up to the exhaust vent of a building to inflate itself with the wasted output of heated air. The interior included pockets to hold the person's possessions and, after interviewing several people living on the street, the tent itself went from an opaque black to a translucent plastic so that the inhabitant could see if someone was sneaking up on them.

The paraSITE by Michael Rakowitz

In addition to the air mattress and the alarm clock, the Mini Motel comes with ear plugs and an eye shade to help block out noise and sound. Imagine being ensconced in New York's Penn Station in an opaque orange tent that announces its purpose—sleeping—while you're wearing earplugs and eye covers.