Just What is Prefab?



The New York Times recently published an article on Revolution, a company founded by Robbie Antonio that sells precrafted tiny homes and pavilions. This article got us thinking about the definition of prefab. Mr. Antonio, a 38 year old Stanford MBA, has a taste for contemporary art, luxury brands, and big ticket architecture. Yes, these homes and pavilions are gorgeous and pre-built, but the designs are so idiosyncratic it’s hard to imagine their production with any efficiency.

I was especially drawn to the bimorphic moon pavilion by Daniel Libeskind (see above photo). It appears to be a bisected blob of molten gold, and shows the hand of a master designer–“blobs” are not as easy to create as you may think.

Likewise, Gluckman Tang’s art pavilion, made from lacquered wood and translucent polycarbonate, is a sweet, well controlled minimalist structure and the closest of all of Revolution’s “precrafted properties” to the reality of typical building methods.

There’s a lot of talk about the notion of prefab, but in actuality the dwellings in this article are more like prefab prototyping, and prototyping is likely to be the way they will stay. After all, one of the fundamental tenants of prefab is that its supposed to be affordable, mass production housing, not a couture dwelling.