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  5. Donald Wexler
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  7. AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler
AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler, © Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

© Juergen Nogai © Juergen Nogai © Juergen Nogai © Juergen Nogai +26

From the architect. For Donald Wexler modern architecture is simply the right way to design. One of the true fundamental Modernist, Donald Wexler began his career working in the office of Richard Neutra. It was here that he became a true pragmatist, balking at any ideological rational for modernism and instead argue that his pursuit of modern design derives from its responsiveness to dynamic environmental, technological, and material conditions. Adaptability and flexibility, prominent aspects of Wexler’s personality, are values inherent in his conception of architectural space, systems, and materials.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

It was this approach to modern design that led Donald Wexler to be one of the pioneers in the exploration of pre-fabrication and the use of light steel framing for both commercial and residential. It was in the offices of Neutra that Wexler first gained interest in working with steel framing, having Neutra’s Lovell Health House considered to be the first steel-frame residence in America.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

One of the first steel-framed systems produced by Wexler and his partner Richard A. Harrison consisted of light-gauge structural steel frame, steel roof decking and insulated wall panels. These elements comprised the basic structural modules which, when bolted to a concrete slab, formed the permanent structure. Since the units were lightweight and structurally independent, they could be relocated. The wall panels were designed in 8-foot modules, allowing flexibility in the placement of doors and windows, as well as the feasibility of expanding the size of the structure.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

While this pre-fabricated system was used mainly for modular classrooms it was later expanded to be used with residential homes in the Palm Springs area, an area where Donald Wexler would leave his mark and cement his legacy as one of the founders of the Palm Springs modernist movement.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

While there were many factors for making lightweight steel-frame extremely attractive for residential purposes, it was the need to create housing for veterans in the postwar period combined with the desire of the steel industry to break into the residential housing market that eventually made it possible and feasible to produce pre-fabricated modular steel-framed houses on a large scale. This was later backed by the insufficient wood available to meet the U.S. demand for more than one million new houses each year. It would be through the examples from the Arts and Architecture Magazine’s Case Study House program that aesthetic possibilities were demonstrated with the steel house.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

The first steel-framed residential project to be attempted by Wexler and Harrison was the Bernard and Adele Perlin Residence in Los Angeles California. It was with this project that Wexler and Harrison adapted the modular steel-framed system used in their classroom design.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

The completion of the Perlin residence was followed by a decision to expand the concept to develop a subdivision of thirty-five single-family steel houses in Palm Springs. These were originally known as the Calcor Prefabricated Homes. The project was to be developed in stages, between 1961-1962 seven houses were constructed through a joint research program involving Wexler and Harrison, Perlin, a sponsorship by the Columbia-Geneva Division of U.S. Steel, and local builders Alexander Homes.

© Juergen Nogai
© Juergen Nogai

Unfortunately, the remaining steel homes were never realized as the subdivision was sold to a different developer upon completion of the initial phase of the building phase. Initially the steel homes were competitive with the traditional wood framing construction. Also, the initial success of the seven steel homes were recorded as “Record House of 1963 through the publication Architectural Record. Labeled as prime examples of lower cost houses designed with good architectural skill, that combined the use of standardized components and pre-fabrication.

Planned Subdivision
Planned Subdivision

Characterized by the same flexibility as that of the career of Donald Wexler, these seven, 1,400 square foot houses became a testament as to what the modern subdivision could have been. Originally, two-bedroom dwellings were constructed, though these could be expanded to three or four bedroom houses. The houses were constructed of factory-built components, which enabled a crew of four men and a rig operator to install all exterior walls of three houses in an eight-hour day.

Detail Perspective
Detail Perspective

The central core of the house (a mere 9-feet wide by 36-feet long) containing the kitchen, bathrooms, and an electrical-mechanical unit was built in one piece at the factory and lowered by crane from the delivery truck to the foundation. Only the exterior walls and the core supported the roof, enabling flexibility in the arrangement and size of the rooms, as other interior partitions were non load bearing. Landscape architect David Hamilton was responsible for the design of the terraces and plant material. The houses were designed to sell between $13,000-$17,000, depending on the furnishings and exclusive of the lot which it occupied.

Wall Detail
Wall Detail
Cite: Oscar Lopez. "AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler" 20 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/155411/ad-classics-steel-pre-fab-houses-donald-wexler/>
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34 Comments

DIALLO · August 23, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/b4XRyqf via @archdaily

Centor4 · August 23, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/lofKOa6

Nicholas Patten · August 22, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses. http://t.co/k0Ijfsj

Hakan Tuzun Sengun · August 21, 2011

Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/tCGi4Vr

Santi Maggio Savasta · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/51MxP3k #Architecture #Architettura

Evan Troxel · August 21, 2011

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Ji?í Jánský · August 21, 2011

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GR2TF · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler: © Juergen NogaiFor Donald Wexler modern architecture is simpl... http://t.co/zTpmT9C

rainsea · August 21, 2011

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Mark Henderson · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler | ArchDaily: http://t.co/D0qFt0R

Erik Joya · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler: © Juergen Nogai For Donald Wexler modern… http://t.co/k0QAIuO

Arielle Schechter · August 21, 2011

Digging Donald Wexler + hope he will finally get recog as #MCM giant http://t.co/MrWcFeb RT @archdaily #architecture #modernism #modernist

André Amaral · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/yHPnfDX #architecture

Sophie Fergeson · August 21, 2011

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Architype Review · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler: For Donald Wexler modern architecture is simply the right way... http://t.co/zr2YbXa

cajadesastre · August 21, 2011

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@ArchiStream · August 21, 2011

via @archdaily AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/Ve3DYaC #Architecture

Mr.Con · August 21, 2011

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Archibuilt 2010 · August 21, 2011

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Archiburner · August 21, 2011

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Renato Papa · August 21, 2011

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Architekt R V Scholz · August 21, 2011

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Simone Colombo · August 21, 2011

Un bellissimo progetto del 1961 per casa prefabbricata ancora contemporaneo SteelPreFabHouse D. Wexler http://t.co/fbM0RkX #architecture

Arquitectura · August 21, 2011

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him + her · August 21, 2011

Architecture AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler: For Donald Wexler modern architect... http://t.co/Wz5p9R0 #architecture

Frederico lucenno · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler - For Donald Wexler modern architecture is simply the right way to... http://t.co/lrsCw8T

Lloyd Alter · August 21, 2011

when I met Wexler http://t.co/03o5Gp0 AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/FHxkvn8 #architecture /via @ArchDaily

Adhie Indreswara · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler via ArchDaily - © Juergen Nogai For Donald ... http://t.co/k1fhgIY

Barry Maguire · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler via ArchDaily - © Juergen Nogai For Donald ... http://t.co/ZGS5ydc

Archifront · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab #Houses / Donald Wexler: © Juergen Nogai For Donald Wexler modern… http://t.co/eXvilPH

Oscar Lopez · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/Z0TDT26 via @archdaily

j.i. choi · August 21, 2011

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Architecture Network · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler http://t.co/5hPpAOA

Bocetos Digitales · August 21, 2011

AD Classics: Steel Pre-Fab Houses / Donald Wexler: © Juergen NogaiFor Donald Wexler modern architecture is simpl... http://t.co/xVQCVtD

···

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