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Mike Thelin

I believe prefab is the long-sought answer to the design woes of the middle-class.

Today's younger generation--those coveted members of the so-called "creative class" that are reportly moving to Portland at a rate 10 times the national average of other large metropolitan areas-- tend to appreciate smart design and would certainly invest in prefab if it were beauitful, effecient, inexpensive, and had the ability to be custom. Prefab can be all of the above and can be manufactured from environmentally friendly and recylced materials. The book "Prefab" by Bryan Burkhart and Allison Arieff is teeming with great ideas in the world of prefab and modular housing. Getting these ideas to market on a larger scale would take a giant leap of faith from a deep-pocketed developer who would be willing to minimize his or her profits--at least initailly--in order to get the ball rolling. There has to be few willing developers out there. Someone should pitch this idea to Brad Malsin.

Michel Weenick

Is a prefab factory line in the hands of the same evil architect - less developers that are responsible for the neo-traditional suburban crap any better than a bunch of carpenters and a truckload of 2x4's? I think not.

Prefabrication, however compelling a concept, is a cost saving building method, not a panacea for the design starved "creative class". The concept is only as good as the architect's ability to add value to the process.

I'm all for prefab as an option, but in the larger scheme of things, I'm much more interested in finding ways to more directly connect architects to the "creative class" (sounds so much better than lower/middle class, doesn't it?).

Jonathan Radmacher

Can they do prefab homes that preserve those beautiful snout-house garages? Now that would be wonderful!

Mike Thelin

Michel,

Respectfully: Your comments indicate you haven't much researched new ideas in prefabrication that are currently being explored. Prefab is a method of manufacturing--not a style of architecture, and therfore doesn't have to be without an architect or "responsible for the neo-traditional suburban crap," as you put it. The whole idea behind the prefab movement is to connect communities with good architecture--which currently most of us cannot afford. I suggest you check out the book mentioned above.


Mike Thelin

Michel,

Respectfully: Your comments indicate you haven't much researched new ideas in prefabrication that are currently being explored. Prefab is a method of manufacturing--not a style of architecture, and therfore doesn't have to be without an architect or "responsible for the neo-traditional suburban crap," as you put it. The whole idea behind the prefab movement is to connect communities with good architecture--which currently most of us cannot afford. I suggest you check out the book mentioned above.


Michel Weenick

Mike,
I appreciate what you're saying and though I haven't read Allison Arieff's book, I'm quite familiar with the concept through Dwell magazine and my firm's own work. I was merely pointing out that prefabrication is an intriguing option in the hands of the right people - namely us good, responsible, upstanding, beautiful city loving architects.

I'm all for making good architecture more accessible for all and if an architect driven prefab system allows that to happen more frequently, then I'm all for it.

But because prefab is a "system" it can be driven by anyone and who is to say that a bottom line only type developer(and hey, lets be real there are lots of great, responsible developers out there too) won't decide to corrupt the system for the purposes of cranking out even cheaper, neo-traditional, faux this or that houses. Cheaper and more accessible for sure, but maybe not making better, more beautiful neighborhoods.

Mike, we're on the same page. I was just trying to say that architects(my firm included) need to do more to make ourselves valuable to even the smallest of residential clients. Relying on prefabrication alone won't do it, but it is a good start for sure.

Cheers.

mike thelin

What you say is very true. And it's fair to point out that large-scale prefab thus far hasn't really delivered--unless one counts metal industrial buildings, some forms of tilt-up, and manufactured housing as good design. Still the possibilities could be amazing in the right set of hands.

tim

i found out about http://www.wieler.com/ from a recent article in the Washington Post. prefab has always been around, but lately it seems like new designs are coming out of the woodwork. the press loves prefab, and while some of the better home designs are still in the R&D stage, global consciousness of prefab is increasing.

just like any other consumer product, people don't know they want it until they see it. after they've seen it, they just might realize that there's more choice out there than the local faux-colonial-no-windows-on-the-sides-of-the-house developments. the more demand there is, the more willing the key players (architects, designers, manufacturers) will be to fill that demand. architecture is not immune from this basic fact of economics.

wes

just to let you know, we launched http://www.rapsongreenbelt.com last week. more prefab designs from WIELER are on the way. thanks for the mention.

scott

Great information here! Check out our blog from the perspective of the home owner who builds an architectural prefab in Los Angeles at http://www.architecturalprefab.com

Jen B

If I could find a piece of land, I would build a modern, Dwell-style pre-fab home in a heart beat! (1400sf 2 or 3 bedroom, in the $280K-$350K ) This is a sweet spot that could dominate the Portland market if a developer is brave enough to take the leap. If I win the lottery tomorrow, I will start building this all over Portland. Affordable, hip, smaller homes for young professionals and young families.

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