To many people the term “prefab housing” calls to mind trailer parks. Yet lately prefabricated houses — built off site and then delivered largely complete — have become fashionable at architecture schools and among an upscale segment of the housing market. They pose a considerable design challenge.
Seizing the moment the Museum of Modern Art has commissioned five architects to erect their own prefab dwellings in a vacant lot on West 53rd Street, adjacent to the museum. Whittled down from a pool of about 400, the five architects are participating in “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling,” an exhibition opening in July.
The five, to be announced today by the museum, are KieranTimberlake Associates of Philadelphia; Lawrence Sass of Cambridge, Mass.; Douglas Gauthier and Jeremy Edmiston of Manhattan; Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf of Austria; and Richard Horden of Horden Cherry Lee in London.
Each firm has a track record with prefabricated housing, but they all approach the form differently. The proposals were evaluated by a jury of MoMA curators and staff members and architectural professionals. The Manhattan architecture firm of Cooper Robertson & Partners will act as the consulting architect in assembling the houses, some created expressly for this exhibition and others designed earlier.
“I wanted a mix of existing buildings and prototypes,” said Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator of architecture and design at the museum, who is organizing the exhibition with Peter Christensen, a curatorial assistant. Mr. Bergdoll said he didn’t want to perpetuate what he called a prevailing myth that prefab housing can’t work in practice. Several architects have had considerable success, including Wes Jones, who in 1994 made homes from shipping containers, and Namba Kazuhiko, who in 2004 created his Muji Infill House.
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