City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Modular Prefabs for Cities?

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Australia seems to be the home of modular, prefab architecture products at the moment. Witness the excellent inhabitat blog pointing at the eHabitat project, as well as Modabode and the Deck House. eHabitat is hugely compelling: adaptive, sustainable, elegant, situated, and relatively affordable. Pick your keyword of choice.

The practically limitless space for expansion afforded by Australia’s geography is no doubt something to do with this innovation, just as the US and Scandinavia (cf. Løvetann) are home to other interesting projects. In compact Old Europe, there’s not as much room for this kind of innovation, literally. (Save parts of Russia, in which the intemperate climate might intervene anyway.) So while part of me will now be tracking down the possibilities of such modular prefab housing in the ‘New World’, another part of me asks about modular prefab housing designed for urban environments?

We generally see these schemes set in ‘natural locations’, and the designs seem at home there, aesthetically and functionally. But are there good examples of modular prefabs designed to integrate into tight urban environments? A couple of Japanese projects vaguely spring to mind, the excellent Deutschlandscape exhibition at the V&A has some examples, and there are some dodgy capsule concepts, but not much else.

While some of the schemes mentioned above could probably fit into cities and towns, with minimal reversioning, it strikes me that some of the tensions implicit in integrating with a compact urban environment are quite different. In terms of building something as sustainable, sophisticated and adaptive, the urban environment may be rather demanding. Any thoughts or examples?

Inhabitat on eHabitat
Inhabitat’s ‘prefab housing’ category


4 responses to “Modular Prefabs for Cities?”

  1. Ian Abley Avatar

    You ask – ‘are there good examples of modular prefabs designed to integrate into tight urban environments?’


  2.  Avatar

    Manchester’s got Urban Splash’s Moho:,view,modular-apartments-urban-splash.dc
    But it’s location is hardly city centre and I don’t think it looks very good in reality.


  3. Andrew Avatar

    The US-based arch magazine Dwell has been funding contests for “modern” prefab homes for a couple of years now. Prefab’s become kind of their angle on modern architecture so they’ve covered quite a few US-based prefab architects and developers.


  4. James Stewart Avatar

    As Andrew mentions, Dwell is a pretty good source for examples of prefab, but I’ve found that they tend to go for buildings in those ‘natural’ settings too. There were letters in one recent issue asking for more in the way of urban dwellings, but having let our subscription lapse I’ve not had a chance to see whether the latest issue addressed that.


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