January 8, 2008

The two faces of prefab

Prefab is a buzzword that comes around in cycles, but it feels like this time around the buzz has lasted for years despite limited realisation of the vision. On the one hand: prefab as Dwell magazine chic is exemplified by the news that MoMA in New York is exhibiting five architect-designed prefab houses this year, ranging from Horden Cherry Lee's Micro-Compact House to a house supposedly designed for New Orleans reconstruction but that really smacks of fantasy (laser-cut pieces assembled with a rubber mallet). On the other: prefabrication as a 'modern method of construction' (MMC), the answer to expensive labour, skills shortages, quality issues, and other symptoms of a malfunctioning Western construction industry - Travelodge is planning to build half its hotels with modules readymade in China.


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