Monday, September 15, 2008

Prefabricated homes as art

Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling by Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen "Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling" (by Barry Bergdoll, Peter Christensen, Birkhäuser Basel; 1 edition August 1, 2008) is a book about the history of prefabrication of homes. It approaches the topic from the point of view of architecture as an artistic endeavour. Many of the systems of prefabrication listed appear to have had a commercial and social intention behind them, particularly to bring affordable housing to the masses. But the emphasis is on the artistic aspects of building as sculpture.

The book includes such historic oddities as the "Manning Portable Colonial Cottage for Emigrants", prefabricated in the UK in the 1800s and shipped as a flat pack to Australia. All the components could be lifted by one person and no nailing was required for assembly. One of the buildings, La Trobe’s Cottage, is still standing in Melbourne and is pictured in the book.

One omission from the list of prefabrication systems is Walter Burley Griffin's patented "Knitlock" system of interlocking concrete tiles. A factory was set up in Sydney to produce the system for use at Castlecrag in Sydney. While not a financial success, the system seems to have progressed more than the Textile Block System of Frank Lloyd Wright and deserves to be mentioned. The Knitlock system is described in "The Writings of Walter Burley Griffin" by Professor Dustin Hadley Griffin and an eyewitness account of the blocks being fabricated in Wanda Spathopoulos' "The Crag: Castlecrag 1924-1938". Copies of the drawings from the Knitlock patent are with the National Library of Australia. The first house built, Pholiota, is on the Register of the National Estate, as are seven in total:

Gumnuts 619 Nepean Hwy Frankston, VIC, Australia
Julian St Jefferies House 7 Warwick Ave Surrey Hills, VIC, Australia
Lippincott House 21 Glenard Dr Heidelberg, VIC, Australia
Manyung Recreation Camp 35 Sunnyside Rd Mount Eliza, VIC, Australia (Indicative Place)
Pholiota 23 Glenard Dr Heidelberg, VIC, Australia
The Duncan House 8 The Barbette Castlecrag, NSW, Australia
The House of the Seven Lanterns 4 The Barbette Castlecrag, NSW, Australia (Indicative Place)

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