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Washington Post looks at prefab through the lens of Home Delivery

Link to Washington Post looks at prefab through the lens of Home Delivery

The Washington Post discussed MoMA's Home Delivery show earlier this week, leading with a quite provocative line:

The architect who masters prefabricated housing -- how to make homes that are well designed, mass-produced, affordable and easy to build -- may well go down in history as the Last Architect.

Got my attention, at least. The article continues with the prodding:

As a fascinating and important new Museum of Modern Art exhibition, "Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling," makes clear, they have mostly failed. But if anyone ever succeeds, perhaps the grand challenge of domestic architecture would be over -- time's up, pencils down.

The article makes many such observations and poses a few questions:

The paradox of the prefab dream, which began with proles in boxes, is that it lingers in the bourgeois craving for luxury goods and second houses.

And so does prefab turn out to be just another designer accessory, not so different from Louis Vuitton handbags or Prada shoes, industrial status symbols that are basically the same from unit to unit? Is it true once again that the blessings of modernism, supposedly a gift for the many, are really just a prize for the few?

Some specific thoughts on the homes in the show:

the ridiculously small confines of the Micro Compact House will [not] leave you with any desire to live there.

the System3 project ... is a compelling piece of architecture by any standard.... Stand in the System3 for a few moments, and you want to live here.

In summary:

"Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling" will leave you honestly conflicted, dubious about where history has brought the prefab dream. And more than ready to move into a prefab castle, just as soon as you can buy a nice plot of land and muster the down payment...

What do our readers think about The Posts's observations? Have most of prefab's early practitioners failed? Is prefab just a "prize for the few?"

While reading the full article, be sure to check out the accompanying slideshow.

subtitle: Prefabricated Housing Gets Prime Real Estate in Exhibit at MoMA
publication: The Washington Post
author: Philip Kennicott
length: 1,850 words
publication date: August 17, 2008

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