as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Prefab Home Designer Bucks A Downward Trend

It's not often that the terms "prefabricated home" and "modern architecture" are heard together. But a young architect in Missouri has spent a decade figuring out how to bring low prices to the realm of high design. And Rocio Romero's homes — with their corrugated metal walls, huge windows and strong horizontal lines — are selling despite a dismal housing market.

One of her sleek designs about an hour's drive from St. Louis sits in sharp contrast to the neighboring hog barn. Step inside, though, and the grassy rural landscape rolls into a bright, uncluttered interior. All the open space makes the home feel much larger than its 1,200 square feet.

The two-bedroom, two-bath model, called the LV, is the standard house by Romero's company. But what's not immediately obvious is that much of the house was flat-packed, like so much IKEA furniture, and trucked here. Romero says that building her way puts the architect in full control.

"Fabricating my components enables me to ensure that every customer is going to get the home the way that I had envisioned it," she said. In home design, "modern" usually means expensive. But Romero says constructing the wall panels and other big pieces offsite saves money without sacrificing quality. Her LV house costs about the same or even less per square foot than a normal stick-built home.

New York Times design columnist Allison Arieff says it's still plenty stylish. "It's really simple. It's really clean," Arieff noted. "And so I think what Rocio's done is create a design that's sophisticated, but it's certainly not overdone." Architects such as Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright saw the benefits of prefab decades ago, but their ideas never caught on. After World War II, a company called Lustron even tried manufacturing steel houses for returning GIs — by repurposing idled war factories.

-excerpt from NPR

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