Entries tagged as 'historical'
GOOD Magazine recently provided an interesting timeline of prefab history.
Did you know?
They published a set of short articles as the GOOD Guide to Prefab Construction:
Publication: GOOD Magazine
Author: Alexandra Spunt
Date: February 4, 2009
The goal of prefab is clear:
It's worth remembering that the current "stick built" process was itself an important innovation, "prefabricating" the basic components:
One step forward in the meantime: panels (6% of homes built in the US in 2007).
A bigger step: modular (3% of homes built in the US in 2007).
Read the whole article for a few details on pros, cons, and possible futures.
Author: Katherine Salant
Publication: Washington Post
Section: Page F06
Length: 815 words
Date: November 1, 2008
Treehugger covered an historical, and quite unconventional, prefab:
*translated quote from Treehugger
Curbed LA provided a photo update of a Marmol Radziner home going up in Venice, CA:
Periodically we like to look back at early prefabs. Architect and furniture designer Marcel Lajos Breuer (1902 - 1981) was a contemporary of Jean Prouvé (1901 - 1984). In 1942, Breuer designed the Plas-2-Point as "easily transportable, low-cost housing for returning GIs".
More details from a University of Oregon research paper:
This building was in fact never built, but is well documented as a pioneer in prefabricated housing types because of its ability to be mass produced with all the benefits this entailed in terms of cost improved quality, and above all, given post-war demand, rapid production....
Those interested in the home's structure should read the full paper.
designer: Marcel Breuer
how: complete modules
title: Plas-2-Point House
author: Tony Salas and Steve Bolinger
length: 1,150 words
date: Spring 1995
It's fun to compare contemporary prefabs to the classic models. We covered a few historical prefabs last year:
Core 77 reports:
Before pre-fab became so fabulously fab, the Small Homes Council at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois published Homes From Pre-Assembled Wall Panels in 1954.
A bit more about the Small Homes Council, now known as the Building Research Council:
For over 50 years, BRC (formerly known as the Small Homes Council) has conducted housing research and provided public service to residents, homeowners, builders, contractors, engineers, architects, and others in the housing industry. Today BRC continues to draw on the expertise of its own staff and a campus-wide network of experts to improve the state of our built environment.
We could not locate the book on AbeBooks.
From the steamy jungle of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to the January drizzle of London's South Bank comes a tropical villa for the people. This weekend sees the construction of an unlikely addition to the capital's skyline: a prototype Modernist house designed in the Fifties by French architect Jean Prouvé.
author: Vanessa Thorpe
publication: The Observer [UK]
length: 380 words
date: January 20, 2008
There is really nothing new about many of the modern prefabs that everyone is going gaga over; back in the 70's Finnish architect Matti Suuronen designed the Venturo, a bit less extreme than his wonderful Futuro House. It appears to have been used primarily as gas stations for BP.
More from Finnish blog Tuovinen:
The "Venturo" is a modular, easily transportable building system, having excellent insulation, low weight and designed for minimum assembly on site.
Nineteen Venturos were built:
First prototype of this model was designed January 9, 1971 and first production unit was built June 1, 1971. According to Museum of Finnish Architecture, BP was built in 1971. BP-Högmo is the second Venturo built according to MFA....
Capitalising on the Futuro´s international exposure, Polykem Ltd. soon launched a whole series of plastic buildings designed by Suuronen. The Casa Finlandia series included the CF-100/200 service station (1969), the CF-10 kiosk (1970) and the CF-45 residential/commercial building, better known as the Venturo (1971). All the buildings in the Casa Finlandia series were designed to be durable and convenient to mass-produce, transport and assemble. The numerical suffix in each building´s name indicates its floor area in square metres. Polykem strove to sharpen the international profile of the Casa Finlandia series by publishing stylish 4-colour brochures complete with vivid product descriptions and catchy slogans.
More on the Futuro House from enthusiast Marc Berting:
Matti Suuronen designed this UFO shaped dwelling in 1968, initially for use as a ski-cabin or holiday home....
For any of you Sears Home enthusiasts:
If you think houses built from kits are shoddy, cheap and obvious, think again. Between 1908 and 1940, Sears sold about 70,000 homes in all 48 states through their mail-order Modern Homes program, with 370 designs that you might not readily recognize as a kit home. Sears kit homes were shipped via boxcar and came with a 75-page instruction book. Each kit contained 10,000 - 30,000 pieces and the framing members were marked to facilitate construction. Many decades later, those same markings can help identify a home as a Sears kit home. So if you're wondering if that adorable little bungalow with the big eaves (or even your own house) is a kit home, read on for signs that will help you identify if it is indeed a historically significant Sears kit home.
Read the full how-to at wikiHow.
Length: 1,100 words (9 steps)
Habode homes are environmentally responsible pre-fab buildings that are tailored to your specifications. All of the houses are the same size (80 square meters), but the floor plan, window placement and doors are all up to you.The company has offices in Australia and New Zealand.
Treehugger covered an historic prefab from 1937:
...integrated furniture and appliances, transformer beds, five hundred bucks (about $15 PSF)- what's not to love?
The structures are also easily expanded, so you can combine different Cabana’s to make whatever size you need, which is pretty cool.
Sears Roebuck & Co. weren't the only ones selling packaged home kits way back when. In England, corrugated iron prefabs were being sold in the 19th century.
From the UK Independent:
Cheaply erected, flat-pack corrugated iron homes and farm buildings were once common in the Highlands but most have been torn down. The three-bedroom Ballintomb Cottage is one of the last still standing. In Edwardian times, a local farmer ordered it from the catalogue of a London company and had it delivered by steam train, then horse and cart, to a site near the village of Dulnain Bridge in Strathspey. He assembled it by hand, so he could move his family in during the summer while he rented out his farmhouse to wealthy holidaymakers. It cost just £425. Now, offers of more than £175,000 are being invited but the selling price could reach as much as £250,000.
Here's more from the home's real estate listing:
The construction of these iron buildings was fully detailed in the catalogues. They quote that "sheets of standard Birmingham grade galvanised iron are used, truly and evenly corrugated, thickly coated with pure Silesian spelter, true and even in temper, and free from flaws and cracks." Floorboards were supplied of thoroughly seasoned deal in 1" thicknesses and lining boards in 1/2" tongue and grooved. The walls were insulated by a liberal use of felt....
author: Andy McSmith
length: 570 words
date: September 6, 2007
publication: The Independent (UK)
(Hat tip: Treehugger)
One of only 11 Frank Lloyd Wright prefab homes has been dismantled, moved and reconstructed as a guest house in Pennsylvania.
From an article in the Cincinnati Post:
"Duncan House had been built in the Chicago suburb of Lisle in 1957 for Donald and Elizabeth Duncan. It's been moved to the rolling hills in the Laurel Highlands of west Pennsylvania, near a town with the unlikely name of Acme...It's only 15 miles from Wright's most famous house named Fallingwater....
Duncan House is now owned by Tom Papinchak, who has said he's had guests nearly every night since the June opening....
Duncan House has some Wright trademarks: a low ceiling in the entrance hall, a three-step drop into a large living room, a kitchen entrance from the carport.
The story is told that the modern little ranch of 2,200 square feet was discovered by the Duncans in a store about prefabs in the December, 1956, issue of House and Home Magazine. Duncan was an electrical engineer who thought Wright designed for wealthy people, but the architect wished to design middle-class housing toward the end of his career. The Duncans ordered the No. 1 prefab house, which Wright had manufactured by the Erdman Co. in Madison, Wisc. Factory-assembled windows, cut lumber, cabinetry and partial walls were delivered on flatbed trucks. There's no evidence that Wright personally visited the Duncans while their prefab was put up."
what: Frank Lloyd Wright prefab guest house
where: Acme, PA
price: $385 per night
(One of the ongoing features that we're adding to the blog: a look back at prefab coverage over the past few years. These historic homes seemed like a great place to start.)
Last May the Wall Street Journal featured an interesting article on the Sears homes and the people who are working to find and catalogue them. The homes are some of the country's very first prefabs:
"About 70,000 to 100,000 of them were sold through Sears catalogs from 1908 to 1940. Distressed that the houses are falling victim to the recent boom in teardowns and renovations, their fans are scouring neighborhoods across the country....So, how can you tell? Read the article for details!
Precut houses ordered from a Sears catalog were shipped by boxcar in 30,000 pieces -- including shingles, nails and paint -- and assembled by a local carpenter or by the buyers themselves. Styles ranged from the elaborate, nearly $6,000 Magnolia, to the three-room, no-bath Goldenrod, sold in 1925 for $445. (Outhouses sold separately.)....
Sears also encouraged sales to families with steady wages but little in savings by financing up to 100% of some of the homes. But many homeowners were forced to default during the Depression, and sales came to an end in 1940.
The mail-order houses, many of which had big porches and were made from high-quality materials like early-growth cypress, were less expensive than architect-designed houses at the time, and were often all working-class people could afford. Because they were typically a family's first home -- and because they were often a do-it-yourself project for buyers -- the houses, enthusiasts say, are emblematic of the American dream.
It's difficult to know how many Sears homes are left. Sears doesn't have sales records, and while interest in catalog homes is growing, many people still don't know they are living in one...."
And check out the Sears Archives for more information on the Sears Homes.
Title: Historians and Fans Are Racing to Catalog Homes Sold by Sears
Author: Sara Schaefer Muñoz
Publication: Wall Street Journal
Length: 1200 words
Issue: May 15, 2006
Back in 1960, designers George Nelson & Co. "threw out the old-fashioned and inefficient ideas inherent in many of [the day's] conventional houses." The design took advantage of the growing modern movement. One can easily see parallels with today's prefab ideals:
"They concentrated their thinking on greatly improved performance, mass production materials, extreme flexibility and a minimum of building parts..."
The Industrialized House featured:
Large homes would be formed by assembling a number of the cubes in large groupings, with air space between:
"... to provide the utmost in privacy and quiet ... Nelson's solution was to separate the rooms and join them by corridors made of the smaller extender units. Since the cube house offers complete design freedom, it can be perfectly adjusted to the building site to provide the desired seclusion and quiet."
I've been reading more about Yurts, and I'm beginning to be won over.
The Yurt Foundation lays out the key advantages:
"The roof structure, with its compression ring and tension band, is an amazing architectural design requiring no internal support system, thereby leaving the yurt open and spacious inside....Want to look inside? Pacific Yurts, Inc. features a virtual tour. (Quicktime required: drag your mouse left or right to swivel the camera around in a circle. If you zoom in, you can also move up and down a bit.)
Yurts are special because they are portable. Central Asian nomads put their gers up in an hour or less. Modern canvas yurts can be set up in a day. To have a shelter that can be put up quickly and then taken down and moved as one's situation changes is a distinct advantage in our transient culture."
"'I just love Prouve,' said tanned hotelier Andre Balazs who bought the house and said he hasn't decided what he will do with it. Of one thing was he certain: 'It belongs back in the tropics.'"
The article added details on the house's history:
"About eight years ago, Touchaleaume traveled to the Republic of the Congo and bought three prototype tropical houses that Prouve had shipped to the French colony. They were in dismal condition, rusting, inhabited by squatters and riddled with bullet holes from civil wars.
He sold one to American collector and former commodities trader Robert Rubin, who restored and donated his house to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 'This price validates the other one,' said Rubin after the sale, speaking of the house he donated."
On Wednesday the New York Times published an article about the classic prefab Maison Tropicale up for auction:
"Tomorrow, the Maison Tropicale, a small aluminum-paneled house built in 1951 by Jean Prouvé, a French designer and the current court favorite of well-heeled contemporary art and design collectors internationally, is being opened to the public for preview in Long Island City. Christie's, the auction house, will offer it for sale on June 5. The presale estimate is $4 million to $6 million."
"One of the most remarkable experiments in prefabrication was Jean Prouve's Tropical House, designed and built in France and airlifted in 1951 to be assembled in Brazzaville, now the middle of a war zone....Treehugger...learned from him that the process [of] assembly and dissassembly is hard on the house and its fittings, so this may be one of the very few chances to see this masterpiece. Prouve is under-appreciated, his work in building and furniture design is brilliant."
Tropolism tried to visit the house and reported back:
"The house...is located in Long Island City, on a plot just south of the Queensboro Bridge. Update: After running over there today, I can report that the dates the house is open are May 17-June 5, 2007. No hours were posted. It was locked at 11am today."Inhabitat covered the house today on Prefab Friday:
"The Maison is plug-and-play: there was never any plumbing, and it is wired for electricity. It ships in six containers. Christie's is compiling a short list of potential bidders with substantial properties in Mustique, Antigua, the Hamptons — name your playground — who might like a 59-foot-by-32-foot-by-16-foot-tall folly/outdoor sculpture/guesthouse/vintage metal toy to park on the lawn, with a designer label attached."
The Christie's auction lot shared some more details on the home:
The home's early use of factory-built parts jives with Jean Prouve's character, as discussed in this International Herald Tribune article from last year:
"Prouvé described himself proudly as a 'factory man,' while his friend, Le Corbusier, dubbed him an 'architect-engineer.'...'He considered the availability and economy of materials, he developed tooling for production, and he aimed to optimize efficiency, but this has been forgotten....The young Prouvé longed to become an engineer, but, as his family could not afford the training, at 15 he was apprenticed to a master blacksmith.
He studied under two of France's most gifted blacksmiths, Emile Robert and Szabo, both of whom produced 'art metalwork': wrought-iron grilles and doors in ornate floral shapes....Prouvé followed his father's design principles: 'Learn about the past; never plagiarize; always use the most up-to- date methods.'"
Milwaukee firm Vetter Denk Architects designed the prefab Aperture House back in 2002, and it showed up in a couple blog posts this week. Architechnophilia posted an image. CubeMe posted the same image with some comments:
"Aperture House is a transparent jewel box, rigorously geometric and exquisitely scaled. Peer through the three-story glass curtain walls at either end of the 16-by-52-foot house and you can see the lake shimmering beyond. It is [a] sleek prefab vacation home on Moose Lake which won a top designing award and lots of interest from the public."
A blog named Seattle Prefab has been around since January, but it's just now showing up in blog search engines. "Seattle Prefab is run by two couples who are planning to build a mini-community of prefab homes in the Seattle area." This week, they discussed their construction schedule and the options they are considering for the driveway.
Modular home manufacturer Pac Van runs a blog and has posted a series on the "Evolution of modular buildings." This week, the blog discussed prefab's modest history and the flexibility of modular buildings:
"Architects and designers now create plans and configure modular space with the same freedom as for a bricks-and-mortar building. Today, a modular building might be a bullet-proof security kiosk, a two-story modular in-plant office, or an 11,500 sf sales center.Kisho Kurokawa's Capsule Tower got a little more attention this week from Core 77:
Gone, too, are the drab exteriors of the early years. Any exterior that stick-built construction uses, modular buildings can replicate."
"The good thing about cities is they re-invent themselves. The bad thing about cities is, they reinvent themselves.Jetson Green posted on the micro compact home we saw in Wired last week:
While world capitols like Paris and Rome are pretty careful with what they tear down, New York and Tokyo have always been less hesitant about replacing the old with the new."
"m-ch was designed to meet the growing demand for short-stay living. I think Horden's on to something. Right now, there's a horde of 7 m-chs that TUM students and staff occasionally stay in."
Inhabitat's Prefab Friday shows a prefab dwelling with a tiny footprint:
"I-RISE is a multi-story prefab residential unit designed to have the smallest possible footprint, both on the site and in an ecological sense. Its intention is to create a modular structure that is simple to build, yet flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of its occupants."
A few blog posts popped up last week about a Japanese 'prefab icon', soon to be demolished. At Treehugger, Lloyd Alter described the building:
"Kisho Kurokawa's 1972 Capsule Tower was, along with Moshe Safdie's Habitat in Montreal, the pioneer in modernist multiple unit prefab. 140 capsules were attached by high tension bolts to a central core. Each of the tiny rooms had built in TV's and reel-to-reel tape decks, washrooms and were pre-assembled in a factory then hoisted by crane and fastened to the concrete core shaft."Inhabitat quickly chimed in (and shows some more photos):
"Two weeks ago, the decision was made to replace the Capsule Tower with a new 14-story tower, despite resistance from Kurokawa, who has been touting the flexibility of the building and even proposed the modernization of the tower by replacing old capsules with more modern units."The Independet UK has a few more details about the project:
"...the demolition campaigners complain that Mr Kurokawa's units are too difficult to maintain. Drainage and water pipes are damaged, and plans to unclip the capsules and refurbish them have never come to fruition. Residents are also afraid that asbestos used in construction poses a health risk....Its 140 units are so small and functional that they have been disparagingly compared to the interior of a Nasa space shuttle."And also includes some good reasons as to why the tower shouldn't be demolished:
"...it remains a destination for tourists interested in design, particularly from Europe, where the Nagakin tower's principles are being championed. The British Government has argued that a modified version of this modular housing could help to meet housebuilding targets. Such is the demand to see the tower that a mock-up of one of the capsules is open to visitors."
Some searching around the web returned some recent news about UK prefabs being demolished. Back in January, TreeHugger reported on a similar large prefab building that they said might be torn down:
"...there were a few problems, apparently including putting the stronger, heavier ground floor units on the top and vice versa, described in the Guardian as 'fatal mismatches'....if the cost of repairing the fault is excessive, they will consider demolishing the whole structure."UK site Building confirmed that the development would be razed:
"Last month, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation announced that it was to demolish the cutting-edge Caspar development in Leeds, which has been standing for less than two years. This type of event — unfortunate but probably quite rare — colours views on modern methods of construction..."
While they aren't modern "prefab", classic post-war modular housing is also being replaced in the UK. News Shopper reports that the residents are protesting the demolition:
"Eighty-three homeowners and tenants have signed an online petition on the Downing Street website, calling for their prefab estate in Catford, built after the Second World War, to be saved....It would cost £8.4m over the next 30 years to deal with repairs and improvements."And the BBC ran a story discussing the demolition and philosophizing about prefab in general:
"Property prices are sky high in London, and 100,000 new homes are urgently needed in the South-East. So are prefabs the answer - or an ugly blast from the past?...Prefabs are quick to build, environmentally-sound, and an architect's dream. But almost always they cost more to build than traditional homes. And, when damaged, it is often hard to repair them. The original WW2 prefabs were only designed to last 15 years."