This article by Chris Knapp, the Director of Built-Environment Practice, originally appeared on Australian Design Review as "The End Of Prefabrication". Knapp calls for the end of prefabrication as a driver for design, pointing out its century-long failure to live up to its promise, as well as newer technology's ability to "mass produce difference". At The Beginning: The End Prefabrication – there is not another word in the current lexicon of architecture that more erroneously asserts positive change. For more than a century now, this industrial strategy of production applied to building has yielded both an unending source of optimism for architecture, and equally, a countless series of disappointments. This is a call for the end of prefabrication. As a body of professionals who collectively swarm around the discipline, architects, builders, developers, critics and politicians have used the term ‘prefabrication’ so many times and in so many ways that its clarity of purpose and focus for successful integration has been lost. Grappling with the best ways to enhance architecture through a genuinely intelligent application of prefabrication techniques, the industry has instead got better at manufacturing a culture of cool ‘prefab’ homes and a media apparatus to promote this effect, rather than doing the work needed to propel forward. Like the ‘green bling’ of sustainability, prefabrication has been reduced to a kneejerk response for solving various crises of housing today or to help support the commodification of Modernism.
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