Home Delivery Part I: A Story of Scientists, Inventors, and Architects

| Jan 02, 2009
by: Mrinalini Rajagopalan

{Images: Top: Interior of the Lustron House (www.ohiohistorycentral.org)/ Bottom: Buckminister Fuller’s Dyamaxion House (www.tslr.org)}
Home Delivery is a two-part exhibit: The first part took place within the MOMA building and incorporated plans, models, and design solutions of prefabricated housing schemes while the second part comprised of 5 full-scale examples of prefab houses that were erected on a lot on 54th Street in mid-town Manhattan. Our tour led by the curator, Professor Barry Bergdoll, began in the MOMA with the first part of the exhibition, where it quickly became clear that the history of modern dwelling is not just one fashioned by architects, but a story whose cast of characters includes inventors, scientists and corporations. For example, the exhibition showcases Thomas Edison’s designs for a poured concrete house that used a standard, reusable concrete mould. Edison’s prefabricated house design came on the heels of that other American icon of mass-production–the Model-T car, and was later followed by Buckminister Fuller’s inventions for the Dymaxion and Wichita Houses. These were the first pre-fab houses that featured standardized services (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) were modular elements as well.
Early kit houses manufactured by Sears Roebuck & Co. were very popular in the early 1930s and companies like Lustron, which utilized technology from an armaments factory were able to popularize the prefab house even further. This legacy is carried on today with the Japanese design company, Muji offering prefab houses for around U.S. $ 115,000.

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