Some Assembly Required: Contemporary Prefab Houses


When you visit the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis you can see a show on Andy Warhol, or you can take in a major exhibition of Modern Prefab that runs until March 26. (We don't know if you can see Geoffrey Warner's Wee House as Warhol might have painted it but we like it a lot.) There is a panel discussion and reception on Thursday, December 8. Frigid Minnesota seems to be a hotbed of modern prefab; Both Charlie Lazor of Flatpack House and Geoff Warner of the Wee House hail from there and are represented in the show. ::Walker Art Center"This exhibition presents a variety of approaches to prefab—from houses owners can build from a kit of parts to those that arrive fully assembled. Employing a wide range of materials, processes, and scales, these dwellings run the gamut from a glimmering sculptural metallic guesthouse by Steven Holl located on the windswept mesas of New Mexico (and thus aptly named Turbulence House) (2005) to Black Barn (2005), a pitched-roof, modern adaptation of a Viking longhouse designed and produced by Pinc House of Sweden to one-room cabins such as the diminutive weeHouse (2003) by St. Paul–based Alchemy Architects to expansive modular configurations such as the custom homes of Resolution: 4 Architecture of New York. Adapting to a variety of lifestyles and contexts, these works challenge our preconceptions of prefab. Breezehouse (2005) by Michelle Kaufmann of San Francisco takes a particularly ecological orientation with its extensive use of small gardens, cross-ventilation, energy-efficient appliances and mechanical systems, and renewable and nontoxic materials. Projects such as FlatPak House (2004) by Lazor Office of Minneapolis eschew the homogeneity associated with older prefab structures by offering owners a wide range of material choices and a hand in the layout of their spaces, while Rocio Romero’s LV and LVL Houses (2003/2004) exist as kit homes and have been used for a number of purposes, from affordable primary residences to a remotely sited bed and breakfast."