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Prefab Timeline

1892
Ernest Franklin Hodgson develops a prefabricated system which he uses to market small structures such as chicken coops, dog houses, tool sheds, and a summer cottage. He later introduces larger structures such as a garage ("auto stable") and year-round housing.

1906
Aladdin Readi-Cut Houses produces a kit house of numbered, precut pieces.

1908
Sears Roebuck & Co. Houses by Mail program established. 100,000 units sold by its demise in 1940.

1919
Le Corbusier writes “Mass Production Houses,” a treatise on the beauty of the “house machine.”

1921
Buster Keaton stars in One Week, a film about a newlywed couple who builds their prefab house.

1923
Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer develop “Building Blocks,” a standardized system of housing.

1929
Buckminster Fuller introduces an early concept for the Dymaxion House—his round metal house—at Chicago’s Marshall Fields department store.

1931
Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher debut the Aluminaire, the first lightweight steel and aluminum house in the U.S.

1932
General Houses Corporation introduces a press-steel panel house for $3,000-$4,500.

American Houses, Inc. introduces the American Motohome, a simple, box-like, turnkey, steel-framed house.

1933
George Fred Keck’s House of Tomorrow is toured by more than 750,000 visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair.

1935
Wally Byam introduces his iconic, aluminum shell Airstream “Clipper,” a trailer easily towed by an automobile.

1936
Frank Lloyd Wright proposes his Usonian House, a system of standardized details and modular dimensions. Although not technically a prefab house, more than 100 are built over the years.

1940
Engineers Peter Dejongh and Otto Brandenberger design the Quonset Hut, a semi-cylindrical structure formed by a ribbed metal shell.

1942
General Panel Corporation commissions Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann to design a panelized house.

1944
The July issue of Arts and Architecture magazine, edited by John Entenza, creator of the Case Study House program, publishes the essay, “What is a House,” espousing the tenants of modern prefabrication.

1945
Developer and builder William Levitt begins Levittown construction. His traditional stick-built, high-volume house assembly method rivals projected prefabricated housing volumes. By 1948 he was finishing 150 houses per week.

Lindal Cedar Homes established. Using a wooden post and beam system, Lindal offers a customizable and complete kit home package.

1947
Industrial designer Henry Dreyfus and architect Edward Larrabee Barnes collaborate on the design of a prefab house for Vultex Aircraft Company consisting of paper core panels skinned in aluminum.

John Bemis, an MIT School of Architecture graduate, founds Acorn Structures, a prefabricated building system.

1948
Carl Strandlund starts the Lustron Corporation, which sells about 2,500 of its all enameled-steel houses before closing in 1950.

1949
Designers Charles and Ray Eames finish their famous one-off home in California, using industrially-produced component parts, as part of the Case Study House program.

Buckminster Fuller introduces his Wichita House, a lightweight, round, standardized aluminum structure. Only two are eventually built.

1950
Jean Prouvé commissioned by the French government to create mass-produced housing. Twenty-five units are produced and installed in Meudon, France.

1953
Carl Koch designs the Techbuilt House, a wooden frame structure and panelized system.

1954
Australian architect Harry Seidler creates a prototype production house, a system of prefabricated columns, sections, and beams to allow for extreme flexibility in floor plans.

Marshfield Homes introduces the “Ten Wide,” a mobile home two-feet wider than industry convention.

1957
Norman Cherner publishes Fabricating Houses from Component Parts, a do-it-yourself guide book.

1959
William Berkes, a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and disciple of Walter Gropius founds Deck House, a prefabricated residential building system.

1967
Buckminster Fuller designs the U.S. Pavillion at Montréal’s World Expo, a large geodesic dome.

Moshie Safdie’s Habitat Montréal is built for the World Expo. 158 concrete modules stacked atop each other contained 18 different versions.

1968
Richard Rogers proposes his Zip-Up Enclosures, a series of standardized components that users could purchase to expand a living structure.

Paul Rudolph is commissioned by the Amalgamated Lithographers of America to create more than 4,000 prefabricated living units rising more than 65 floors. (unrealized)

1970
The geodesic dome as a do-it-yourself phenomenon reflected in the publishing of Lloyd Kahn’s Domebook One and one year later Domebook 2, which sold more than 175,000 copies.

1971
Paul Rudolf ‘s modular housing project Oriental Masonic Gardens completed in New Haven, Connecticut.

1972
Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo is realized with living units that can be changed out over time.

1974
Zvi Hecker’s Ramot Housing Complex in Jerusalem contains 720 polyhedric modules arranged in a beehive configuration.

1976
U.S. Congress passes the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act to ensure the use of approved construction standards.

1980
The National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act is renamed the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Act reflecting the difference between truly mobile recreational vehicles and more permanently sited manufactured homes.

1985
Deborah Burke creates the Single Wide and Double Wide, two modular house designs, for developer Harvey Gerber.

1993
Mark and Peter Anderson develop their first balloon-frame panel house on Fox Island, Washington.

1995
Shigeru Ban completes Furniture House in Japan, which uses factory-finished and site-installed floor-to-ceiling shelving as structural support for the roof.

Wes Jones uses standard shipping containers as the basis for his Technological Cabins series.

1996
Mass-market retailer IKEA introduces its more traditional style Bo Klok house in Sweden.

1997
KFN Systems in Austria completes Two-Family House, a timber-framed house based on a modular system created with a group of traditional carpenters.

1998
Austrian-based firm KFN introduces its prefabricated module SU-SI, which is trucked to the site and erected on piers.

2000
Global Peace Containers, a non-profit organization that converts retired shipping containers into housing and community buildings, completes a school in Jamaica.

2001
Sean Godsell creates Future Shack, an emergency housing prototype built from a discarded shipping container.

Adam Kalkin creates The Collector’s House for the Shelburne Museum comprised of three converted shipping containers with an outer shell by Butler Building, an off-the-shelf metal industrial building envelope.

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House is restored and installed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

David Hertz creates his Tilt-Up Slab House in Venice, California, utilizing precast concrete panels.

Rocio Romero offers the LV Home, a Galvalume-clad rectangular, flat-roof, glass walled home as a partial kit home.

2002
Allison Arieff and Bryan Burkhart publish Prefab, the first survey of contemporary prefabricated houses and their historical antecedents.

2003
The architectural firm of LOT-EK completes its prototype for a Modular Dwelling Unit, a shipping container converted into a home featuring extendable and retractable modules that increase usable interior square footage.

Alchemy Architects completes its first weeHouse, a one-room prefabricated modular cabin in rural Wisconsin.

Dwell magazine launches its prefab house competition. A design by Resolution: 4 Architecture is selected for construction at a North Carolina site.

2004
The “no-brand” retailer of minimalist consumer goods Muji offers a prefabricated, metal-clad house designed by Namba Kazuhiko in the Japanese market.

Michelle Kaufmann’s Glidehouse, a modular prefab home, debuts at Sunset magazine’s Celebration Weekend in Menlo Park, California, and enters production.

Charles Lazor completes his prototype FlatPak, a panelized prefabricated system, in Minneapolis. In 2005 the FlatPak is offered by Empyrean International LLC.

2005
Marmol Radziner debut Desert House, a prototype for a steel-welded frame modular prefab system of living, shade, and deck modules. A factory is established in Los Angeles for production controlled by the architectural firm.

Michelle Kaufmann debuts the Sunset Breezehouse, a modular prefabricated home featuring a series of garden spaces and a choice of roof type, and enters production.

Pinc House based in Sweden adds Black Barn to its home offerings. Based on the Viking longhouse, the pitched-roof structure uses a panelized prefabricated system.

Steven Holl Architects completes Turbulence House, a stress-skin metal panel house in New Mexico, which utilizes computer-controlled cutting technology to produce 24 unique panels.


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