On January 23rd, at the Proxy in San Francisco, Dwell and Aether Apparel hosted the talk Prefab's Progress, the latest in our series of Dwell Conversations.
Last night, January 23rd, Dwell and Aether Apparel teamed up for the Dwell Conversation Prefab's Progress. We were joined by a two architects, a metal fabricator, and a prefab entrepreneur to talk about how prefabricated architecture can solve the problems presented by difficult sites.
Rather an informal talk, Deputy Editor Aaron Britt (in the tie) moderated a talk about prefab design with (from left) architect Benjamin Parco, Seth Krubiner of Simpatico Homes, architect Douglas Burnham, and metalworker Chris French. Here French describes how his long experience doing custom metalwork allowed him to avoid a trial-and-error approach to the Aether interior.
Douglas Burnham, principal of Envelope A+D, and designer of the AetherSF shop describes how the trio of shipping containers are connected by just four bolts, making them entirely mobile. Because the buildings at the Proxy are intended to be temporary—San Francisco has designated the lot for mixed-income housing when it has the capacity to build—Burnham and his colleagues faced a difficult site not in terms of topography, but in terms of time.
Nodding to the bay windows so common in San Francisco, the AetherSF shop's second in the stack of three shipping containers cantilevers out over the entry not only to provide a bit of shelter from a rainy night, but also to permit an expansive view of the neighborhood from the second floor lounge.
Seth Krubiner (plaid shirt) and Benjamin Parco (black blazer) describe how they used prefab tools to build a pair of Bay Area Houses. Krubiner is a founder of Simpatico Homes and lives in the firm's prototype house in Emeryville, California. A hybrid site-built and modular system, Simpatico Homes build as much as they can in the factory but as Krubiner argued, certain elements (like the garage) are better done on-site. Parco designed a panelized prefab system for a house high in the Berkeley Hills, too high for a big truck and a crane to move a modular solution to the site.
At just nine feet wide, AetherSF succeeds by being a vertical store. A customized dry-cleaner's conveyor belt hoists tons of jackets tens of feet into the sky, essentially suspending the shop's inventory.
Casey's Pizza truck kept the crowd in high spirits and thin-crusted eats.
Not only did we celebrate the opening of AetherSF, Aether's first stand-alone shop, and an incredible structure made from three customized shipping containers, but we also heard more from architect Benjamin Parco and Seth Krubiner, founder of Simpatico Homes, both of whom had projects in our December/January issue Prefab Comes Home. Check out the home Parco designed in the Berkeley Hills here and Krubiner's prototype here. In addition to our two Dwell alums, we also talked shop with metal fabricator Chris French (he did Aether's awesome shipping containers) and architect Douglas Burnham of Envelope A+D, designer of AetherSF. Despite the rain we had an excellent turnout, proving yet again that California's thinking about, and appetite for, prefab remains very strong.