Saturday, February 02, 2008

prefab nostalgia tour

A couple of blog posts in the last month have reminded me that prefabrication has not only been around for a long time, but that we haven't even regained any of the midcentury awesomeness that used to exist. Tropolism just posed a small eulogy on Bertrand Goldberg, including this house in Long Island Sound made with a combination of modular and panelized elements with a huge pier-to-nowhere, that most certainly wouldn't be allowed in this day and age.

Treehugger also has a nice bit on this Swedish prefab vacation home by Matti Suuronen, a pretty ingenious (and lightweight) fiberglass scheme that hasn't been revisited in the last few decades.

And then, of course, there's the blockbuster Maison Tropicale by Prouve, which I find to be charmingly graceless and techy.

Anybody doing serious research on prefabrication eventually comes to the conclusion that it's heyday has past, mostly due to projects like these. There's a daring and experimental quality in them that you don't get looking at Res4 or Living Homes products (or even those of my employer.) I feel like that's kind of melodramatic and immature. The kind of code advances that require better energy performance and safety do make this kind of work harder, and people/goverments do seem a bit more wary of handing over their home and pocketbook to experimentation. But if this kind of work is going to gain a toehold in the general consciousness, solutions have to work, first and foremost, as homes. So, in the absence of exuberance, I say it's high time we shoot for a mature, sustainable set of solutions that not only look good in a magazine but can be used and misused, day in and day out, without exception.

And I do mean misused. I'd like to see testing that unleashes a few dozen eight year olds into a house for a week and distills values like "fun quotient" and "irreparable parti damage."

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