Saturday, June 13, 2009

two links and a sigh, then some promise

It's been a rough month for modern prefab. MKD is down, and shockingly Empyrean closed their doors as well. Both of these companies made a great product and it's kind of a shock (especially Empyrean, they were one of the first and biggest prefabricators, and broke a lot of new ground over the years).

Christopher Hawthorne over at the LA Times wrote this great article that should be required reading for anyone asking questions about the future of this industry. Sober, incisive, and maybe just a little pessimistic.

I also came across this modular marketing blog this morning. I expected it to be all bluster and invective, but instead I found a very down-to-earth, helpful, and frequently insightful boots-on-the-ground report. For anyone who thinks that prefabrication is dead, look at this site-- it might not be in Dwell for a while, but there are plenty of people doing good work.

This site also turned me onto the fact that Clayton Homes is entering the sustainable modern market. How on earth did I miss that? It's a solidly MOR approach, as should be expected for any company that actually wants to make money with their product, but I found a lot to like about the i-house (despite a terrible, terrible name). I was actually brought up short by what these guys came up with. It now seems to me that perhaps the real lasting effect of the last 10 years of modern prefab experimentation was to alert the giants of the industry that this niche market was important and growing. Clayton expects this line to bring in 10% of their revenue!

Granted, it's no Muji home (dear god I am jealous of those Japanese), and Clayton doesn't have quite the populist modern cache of Ikea, but I think the i-house might be a bellweather for the future of this industry.