Magazine article Newsweek

Design: Beyond the Trailer Park

Magazine article Newsweek

Design: Beyond the Trailer Park

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Tolme

Forget tornado trailers and bland, low-rent subdivisions. A new generation of architects has dramatically re-envisioned prefabricated housing--using cheaper materials, clever construction strategies and the best of modern design. For under $200,000, an architecturally adventurous family can now buy a stylish single-family home, precut and ready to assemble. Yes, prefab has finally become, well, fab.

"Too much energy has been expended making faux bricks and siding to mimic traditional housing," says Wes Jones of Jones, Partners: Architecture (jonespartners.com). Dwell Magazine recently featured his PRO/con Package Home--along with 15 other groundbreaking designs--in its prefab-architecture contest. Winning entries boasted large balconies, airy floor plans and panache to spare (thedwell home.com). The breakthrough? Rather than mimicking tired styles, modern prefab proponents are rethinking the building blocks of the American home.

Inspired by London's Container City and a Global Peace Containers school in Jamaica, Richard and Kim Markham stumbled onto one of those new "blocks": the shipping container. Their 2,000-square-foot homes are built from four vertically stacked steel boxes--connected by a precut glass-and-metal staircase. If the Markhams get city approval, they'll build 26 of the structures in Tampa, Fla.'s increasingly trendy Channel district, with units selling for under $100,000. (Another shipping-container home, designed by LOT/EK, is on display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis before heading to New York's Whitney Museum.)

Meanwhile, architect Jennifer Siegal has built a prototype home using a mass-produced steel frame from the portable- classroom industry (design mobile.com). Floors will be finished with bamboo, a sustainable wood, and walls will be composed of a recycled newspaper-based material. …

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