MoMA: Pre-Fabricating The Flexible City

As we have proclaimed more often at this blog, the increasingly flexible context of modern lifestyle calls for dynamic solutions in our build environment. Already a century ago experiments with this thought have been launched. A great overview of all those efforts have been shown last summer at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and are now brought together in the book Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling.

From 20 July till 20 October MoMA organised a great exhibition on some aspects of what we call the pop-up city. The exhibition ‘Home Delivery, Fabricating the Modern Dwelling’ was a broad and profound investigation on the modern flexible dwelling that is transportable, reconstructable and prefabricated. Curator Barry Bergdoll laid his hands on beautiful films, blue prints, photographs, toys, manuals, sales and propaganda materials and original models, drawings and plans made throughout the history of the pre-fabricated dwelling. Besides these examples, some real prefabricated houses were shown. This diverse collection of material illustrates how the prefabricated house has been, and continuous to be, not only a reflection on the house as a replicable object of design but also a critical agent in the discourses of sustainability, affordability and design innovation.

The motivation to set up this exhibition lies in its conclusion. For one century architects, urbanists and planners make their efforts to rethink the relation between place, human activity and building techniques. And they still do with a growing need and slightly changing techniques and contexts. The most interesting remark is the idea that the thinking on flexible and temporary constructions has shifted perspective during time: from a producer perspective, with standardisation as a main objective, to a consumer perspective with unique design as a central issue. Whereas modern architects like Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to experiment with new building techniques and materials to build affordable houses for the poor, current architects carry the responsibility to create a building method that fits into the requirement of our mobile society.

During whole history most proposals for flexible constructions haven’t been executed. Why not isn’t clarified. But maybe more interesting is the fact that some amazing concepts have been realised. Find a project catalogue at