Imagine if your house came delivered to you in over a 1,000 precisely-cut jigsaw-like pieces. This is the idea that New York-based, Jeremey Edmiston of System Architects and Douglas Gauthier of Gauthier Architect had for NYC Museum of Modern Art’s Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling exhibition, when they created BURST*008. Combining architecture and technology, the home was computer-designed and its pieces milled to the exact dimensions to fit together like a 3-D puzzle. The pieces were then flat-packed onto a truck and shipped to MoMA’s West Lot, where it was assembled on site, held together by an insulated skin.
The model for BURST*008 is unlike other prefab homes because it does not come to the site as an almost completed unit. It is also unique in its formulation of the design of the home. The architects created the BURST homes with the use of computer modeling. A house is computer-drafted based on a set of formulas, client specific needs, and site conditions. The computer program spits out a house design and explodes it into individual pieces.
Then, these 1,000+, non-identical, pieces are laser cut from SIPs or plywood, in such a way to minimize wasted material, and then flat-packed and shipped to the site. Upon arrival, pieces are unloaded, and like an accordion, stretched apart to form the skeleton of the house. The exterior of the house and interior pieces are built in accordingly.
The BURST*008 is actually a later version of the BURST*003, created as a summer home for a family in Australia. The original Burst home cost $250,00 for 1500 square feet, and as Edmiston says, “Prefab isn’t about saving money; it is about controlling risk.” Which seems to be a fair argument, in light of recent criticism.
You may have read an interesting article recently posted on Jetson Green about prefab and affordability. The article, by Chad Ludeman, developer of the 100K LEED House, says that prefab is not the best way to deliver affordable modern design. The BURST homes seem to agree with this line of thinking: they are clearly not about affordability, but about systematizing the process of designing homes based on specific rules.
Still on display at the Home Delivery Exhibition, BURST*008 is one of 5 prefab homes on display on MOMA’s West Lot until October 20, 2008. The homes, constructed specifically for MoMA by 5 architecture teams, are part of an exhibit that explores the history of prefabricated housing from 1833 to the present. Presenting some thought-provoking material, the exhibit, including BURST*008, is a must-see for any architect or designer.