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The Language of Architecture by Val Warke, Andrea Simitch

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As a boat is fabricated in a shop and then introduced to
water, a prefabricated architecture is simultaneously
site-less and site-ed. It is constructed away from its site
and subsequently brought to its site, either as an entire
module or as a kit of parts that can be assembled upon
arrival. It is often made of standardized parts or modules
Prefabrication often begins with a specific set of performance criteria that leads to an
idealized solution.
25
prefabrication
THE LANGUAGE OF ARCHITECTURE
that can be repeatedly (mass-) produced or
it can appropriate existing already-made
components that have not necessarily been
fabricated explicitly for architecture. A
prefabricated architecture is one that is often
conceived as a mobile architecture, one that
can either be moved or reassembled, or one
that touches lightly on the land, minimally
disturbing the context to which it has been
brought. Technological experimentation and
ease of assembly are often motivated by a
sites remoteness or difficulty of access, a
need to quickly expedite shelter in a time of
crisis, or the ability to incrementally expand
over time through accretion of additional
modules or assemblies.
Standardization
In his foreword to the 2008 MoMA
exhibition catalog Home Delivery: Fabricating
the Modern Dwelling (page 7), museum
director Glenn Lowry writes that “mass
customization [will] trump mass standard-
ization.” And while, certainly, there is a
paradigm shift under way concerning the
definition of standardization in light of
emerging digital technologies, where the
production of identical parts is no longer
a prerequisite for the efficiencies typically
associated with standardization, optimization
(as defined by the speed of production,
minimum waste, and reproducibility) remains
one of its most identifiable characteristics.
The scale of “standardized” components can
range from a brick, a plywood panel, a 2-inch
x 4-inch (5 x 10 cm) wood stud or a steel
beam, to a room or even an entire building.
All depend on repetition, expansion or
aggregation to construct something larger
than itself. It is a unit of measure that is
embedded in the material (or space, or
process) that not only facilitates duplication
but also brings a form of logic to the
constructive process.
The beams are brought to the
site and stacked into place,
producing a dense structural
skin that both supports its
interior floors and allows
for cantilevers that create
enormous voids of suspended
exterior piazzas.
duplication and in no sense
be an individual performer.”
Pierre Koenig’s 1959–60
Case Study House #22 is an
example of a project that,
while designed for a very
specific site, was constructed
of standardized steel and
glass components that could
be recombined and deployed
on a very different—and less
extreme—site.
Studio Ensamble’s 2007
Music Tower for Berklee
School of Music in Valencia,
Spain, proposes a system of
prestressed concrete beams,
of the scale and profile more
typically associated with
infrastructural projects (such
as bridges and overpasses).
John Entenza, the editor of
Arts and Architecture, wrote
in the 1945 announcement of
the magazine’s case study
house program, “The house
must be capable of

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