In 1971 the firm of Piano + Rogers won the competition to build what became Paris's Pompidou Centre, one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, an icon of high-tech and prefabrication. They split up in 1977, yet seem to have continued on parallel paths. Last year Renzo Piano showed his lovely little high tech mini-house; now Richard Rogers shows that he can do mini-houses too, with his design for a 300 square foot low-cost prefabricated house, the Y-Cube, designed for the British YMCA.
It is designed as short term transitional housing for people moving on from hostels. Archdaily quotes:
“The beauty is that the units can be moved off site as quickly as they are installed,” says Andy Redfearn of the YMCA, “as we operate on short-term leases – we expect people to stay [in the Y-Cube] for between three to five years, giving them time to skill up and save for a deposit.”
I don't know how one saves up for a deposit while paying rent of £140 (US$ 235) per week, but housing is expensive in Britain, and they have promised a 5% return to speculating “social investors.”
The Guardian gives more information about the construction technology:
Employing a timber-framed system called Insulshell, developed by Sheffield Insulations Group and Coxbench (which was also used for the London Olympic velodrome), the units are manufactured in one piece in a factory in Derbyshire. Built from precision-cut glue-laminated timber sections assembled by hand – “fixed with just two kinds of screw,” the designers tell me proudly – they are packed with insulation, forming a structural frame that can be stacked up to eight storeys high.
I described Insulshell in an earlier post as "a new form of structural insulated panel with a patented joint system, a 60 minute fire rating and an insulating value of U0.16 for 239 mm panel, which translates through a complex calculation to R35 for an 8" thick panel."
Importantly, the demonstration unit that people are calling the "monopoly hotel" for its shape and colour may be a standalone, but the system is designed to do low-rise multiple unit projects. The first will be a horseshoe-shaped 36 unit project built around a courtyard where residents can grow vegetables.
Interiors are small and spartan, and critics have noted that they are reminiscent of postwar prefabs built in Britain. As for the exterior, Guardian critic Oliver Wainwright is unkind:
Whether it’s the clunky massing that comes with the stacking of prefab boxes, or the cheap-looking laminate cladding that give the air of paper-thin walls (belying the 350mm-deep construction), or the dubious colour schemes punctuated by shallow oblong windows, it’s hard to shake off that image of living in an 80s office block, or a converted data centre.
That's harsh. Monopoly hotels are the most expensive buildings in the game; it seems like an aspirational target.