We as a profession speak romantically about prefabrication and mass production as a way to bring thoughtful design to mainstream homebuyers. We hope for construction costs of $150/sf and “fast” schedules of 6 months. We are a little lost. The mass housing industry’s bottom line is closer to $60-75/sf and houses are completed in 40-75 days out in the converted farmland of exurbia.
This project isn’t looking to solve any issues with suburban sprawl. We see these communities as still a bit Frankensteinian, but desirable for many Americans. Using the building blocks of the typical American tract house we asked not only what types of spaces they could contain, but what types of spaces could they create; a change not so much in architectural configuration, but a change in lifestyle.
We wanted to return to utilitarian simplicity and a model of living large in a smaller home. We had three basic principles in mind with the design of this house. They are: 1. everybody should have a fruit tree – sweet fragrance, an idea of abundance, and a small token of a good life in one package; 2. houses should be about quiet, protected places – places that can be marked by the track of the sun and dimensioned with shadow; and 3. houses need to breathe – in this day and this climate, a house needs to embrace the out and make it part of the in. The courtyard plan we have borrowed is from a history much older and more profound than the faux craftsman details that pass for cultural continuity in these communities. This courtyard will be the voice of the house and the spatial turn of the phrase in this experiment. We are eager to see if this revisited hearth will be embraced by the market’s current set of expectations.
We were asked to collaborate on a new model of tract house, a new American bungalow. The metrics are simple: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two car garage mandatory. The house needed to meet or exceed the economics of the competition.
This is what we came up with. This is our 60 day experiment.