On the Stands: Dwell's Prefab Issue

dwell cover image
I remain a fan and subscriber of Dwell Magazine. It was the biggest promoter of my previous gig, prefab housing; it almost invented modern prefab with its 2001 issue covering the subject. For full disclosure I will note that I have been quoted in it a couple of times and was a speaker at two Dwell conferences.

So I was very excited to see their new Prefab issue; it is a must for anyone following the industry. TreeHugger friend from Inhabitat and Worldchanging Sarah Rich covers ZeroHouse, carefully treading about the concept of prefab vaporware; Debra Prinzing covers garden sheds, many of which we covered here. There is good coverage of Marmol Radziner, builders of the most beautiful prefab I ever saw, Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG fame gives Fuller his due. DWM of the month is Konrad Wachsmann, and the smartest guy in the prefab room, FabPrefab's Michael Sylvester, writes an excellent introduction to prefab.

But as interesting as what is in the issue is what is left out.

lazor dwell home

Over the past ten years the failures in prefab are as instructive and perhaps as interesting as the successes.(as a failure, I admit bias) It is no surprise that Dwell did not spill a lot of ink on their own participation in the Dwell Homes with Charlie Lazor and Resolution 4- print is expensive. They pass as well on a story about how this industry is dominated by supremely talented and creative women, like Michelle Kaufmann, Rocio Romero and Jennifer Siegel.

dwell image

illustration from Michael Sylvester's article

But it was churlish of them to ignore the contribution of Allison Arieff, who worked with Karrie Jacobs on the first issue of Dwell on modern prefab. Allison and her husband Bryan Burkhart then wrote PREFAB, the first popular book on the subject, and Allison promoted the industry in the pages of Dwell and elsewhere for years. She deserves better than the single reference to her, the description of her book: "more than a coffee table book-it's a good primer"- how long did it take them to figure out how to damn her with faint praise in ten words.

Dwell would have done better to tell the whole story, warts and all, rather than this attractive but self-reverential and oh, so carefully edited issue- it is a story worth covering and they could have done a great job on it.

More from TreeHugger on the architects discussed in this post:

Marmol Radziner: stunning new prefabs
Zero House by Scott Specht
Buckminster Fuller's Wichita House- Early Sustainable Design
Prefab Now- the Tropical House Reconstructed
Prefab Homes by Dwell
Flatpak House
Joe Tanney on the Swingline House
Modern Prefab by Kohn Shnier Architects and Royal Homes
Michelle Kaufmann Prefab On Exhibit In Chicago
Book Review: The Perfect $ 100,000 House
Swellhouse by Jennifer Siegel Built in Venice
Home Delivery: Modern Prefab Lives Fast, Dies Young, Leaves Good ...

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