Kit House II

This studio has two objectives. The first is to revisit an icon of American vernacular.  The second, to reflect on the design process itself, on how –and why– we choose to do things.

Our theme is part of the re-emergent phenomenon of OFFSITE MANUFACTURING or OSM, also known as Model as Building – Building as Model, whereby projects of any size or purpose are designed and built anywhere, anywhere (that is) except on site.

OSM is not a technical theme, and the studio is not about construction. It is about reflecting on the nature of building, and the various ways in which the conceptual breakthroughs performed by unsuspecting actors of the design and manufacturing world enrich our disciplinary understanding of architecture and urbanity.

The studio concludes a line of enquiry carried out in 2018-19 and 2022 with a renewed focus on the unique, all-American cultural phenomenon known as a the Modern Home –or Kit House. This quintessentially American experiment lasted from 1908 to the Great Depression (the last batch shipped around 1940).

The mail-order only Kit House was disseminated through Modern Homes Catalogues. Largely outdated by today’s social norms, this marketing literature did capture a moment of boundless American optimism, a can-do attitude, and a refreshing faith in everyone’s ability to build their own home. With its agnostic approach to architectural style and embrace of new technology, the Kit House set out some ground rules OSM still abides by today.

Starting with a renewed appreciation of the economic, social and cultural ambitions of OSM Participants are invited to propose a contemporary concept of the Kit House. The brief is completely open, but we will pay special attention to the following design issues: Identity and Culture. Modularity. Assembly. Packaging. Shipping, Documentation and Nomenclature (Building by Numbers).

OSM being first and foremost a matter of cultural geography, site is not a priority as such. In keeping with the American character of the concept and its broadly rural resonance, the studio will concentrate on a rural corridor off Everett Road in the town of Norfolk MA, where land is zoned for single-family dwellings. We will visit the site and devise on a strategy of collective occupation as a group.

The deliverables of the studio will consist in a flat-packed Kit House model, a brochure of guidelines and explanations, and a public performance.  

This course has an irregular schedule. Please see the course syllabus for details.