Why do we spend so much time discussing mobile and modular homes? Allan Wallis, in Wheel Estate, writes:
The mobile home may well be the single most significant and unique housing innovation in twentieth-century America. No other innovation addressing the spectrum of housing activities- from construction, tenure, and community structure to design- has been more widely adopted nor, simultaneously, more widely vilified.
That's why projects like the recently shown Alpod, a modular housing unit that is designed to plug and play in a round high-rise tower, are so interesting. It is an idea that I suggested harkens back to Archigram's Plug-in City; In fact, there is an even earlier precedent, proposed by Elmer Frey of Milwaukee's Marshfield Homes. Frey was a pioneer in the industry, and was instrumental in getting the laws changed to permit the transport of ten foot wide homes down the road. This was critical, as Stewart Brand writes of mobile homes and Frey in How Buildings Learn:
One innovator, Elmer Frey, invented the term "mobile home" and the form that would live up to it, the "ten-wide"- a ten foot wide real house that would usually travel once, from the factory to the permanent site. For the first time there was room for a corridor inside and thus private rooms. By 1960 nearly all mobile homes sold were ten-wides, and twelve-wides were starting to appear.
In 1966 Frey proposed building a high rise out of them; according to Mobile Home Living:
Two twin towers, each 332 feet tall and 247 feet around, would hold 16 single wide mobile homes on each floor was the plan. A total of 504 mobile homes would be housed in the 20 story structure. With shopping and parking on the first 6 floors, a restaurant on the top floor of one tower and a community center on top of the other, the residents had everything they needed within walking distance and the rent was projected to be around $150-200 a month.
According to the Milwaukee Sentinel, the building was to have four storeys of parking for cars, with the housing units above. the seventy-five foot diameter core has emergency stairs, elevators and one huge revolving mobile home elevator to get the units up to their 2,640 square foot lots in the sky.
The state governor thought it was “a dynamic project that would meet the challenge of the future”. He thought it was great that it was going into downtown Milwaukee, “a good place to start the project because of its central city problems. He said such a project would help rejuvenate the city’s downtown area. the Mayor called it “a dynamic approach to urban renewal and a boost to the tourist trade.”
He never did get the two towers built, but constructed a smaller prototype version, three storeys high, that held nine mobile homes. This appears to be a portion of a seven storey building with a more interesting design that has more natural light and views, but this is the only tiny photo of the rendering that I can find:
Alas, Skyeries Terrace was a flop; according to Streets.MN "The project failed, at least in part, because its water pumps were unable to supply the upper decks during winter." There must have been other reasons as well; the company was "involuntarily liquidated" in 1966. Perhaps it should have been built in Florida, or perhaps it was just ahead of its time.
This one, proposed for Florida, looks like fun; too bad it never got built.