While walking around during the opening of the latest architecturally-themed MoMA show, Home Delivery,I was awed by how fresh and daring work that is over forty years old still feels today. The work that most stood out to me was done in the 1960s and 1970s when pre-fab moved out of the unit-to-be-built-anywhere mode to the design of systems that create holistic urban environments. These projects include Richard J. Dietrich and Bernd Steigerwald's Metastadt-Bausystem, Archigram's Plug-In City, and Paul Rudolph's Oriental Masonic Gardens. These were projects that sought to radically change the role of the designer from the sole production of objects to the careful manipulation of many already-mades (the humble mobile home in Paul Rudolph's example) to create new social and political spaces.
As architectural designers we know that pre-fab is technically possible and instinctually we feel that in a world of growing populations and diminishing resources pre-fab makes sense. The problem is that many of these urban projects of the 60s and 70s never came to fruition and in more contemporary work (from the 1990s on) seen in the MoMA exhibit, architects are reverting to the pre-60s struggle to technically and aesthetically improve the pre-fab unit, rather than designing the most inhabitable pre-fab city (and all the architectural, infrastructural, and landscape elements necessary to create it). However, a closer look at the exhibit reveals that since the industrial revolution, much of the technical work in pre-fab units coming from the best and brightest in the design field has inadvertently been used to facilitate the sprawling growth of suburbs. Much of this work leads to technologies that allow for faster and cheaper construction, and often the technologies are picked up by a commercial world that is always hungry for expediency, while the lofty ideals behind the technologies are seldom noted.
Yet one cannot shake the feeling that within the almost 200 years worth of work exhibited at the MoMA there is an unachieved promise -- that of a new, inexpensive, socially responsible, and environmentally adequate way of living. In a world where people are asking for increased interactivity with everything from music to politics, designers must lead with new pre-fab thinking that goes well beyond the design of the individual pre-fab house to cause a holistic shift in the way we live.
More on Pre-fab In Archinect:
shipping containers as housing
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http://dsgnagnc.com/quilian-bio/DSGN AGNC Founder and PrincipalPart-Time Assistant Professor, Parsons The New School of Design MArch - Harvard University | Graduate School of DesignBDes - University of Florida | School of ArchitectureQuilian (pronounced Killian) is a designer, writer, and ...