As the birthplace of the famous Lustron prefab homes of the 1940s, the Midwest has enjoyed a long history with prefabricated architecture. And, with leading designers like Charlie Lazor of Lazor/Office in Minneapolis and Jeffrey Sommers of Chicago-based Square Root Architecture singing the typology's praises, it’s little wonder that the American Heartland has become home to many inspiring factory-built houses.
From cost-effective cabins trucked into place to affordable and sustainable kit homes with minimal site impact, check out these six show-stopping, prefabricated Midwest homes pulled directly from our site.
A one-of-a-kind modernist marvel, the all-white prefab house that architect William Massie created for an exhibition during his residency at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan is an exercise in the power of prefab. Built with CNC machinery and SIPs in a former tool-and-die factory and trucked onto site in sections, the boxy steel-framed home—dubbed the American House 08—is more an experimental art piece than a structure meant for mass production. Crafted with mix of textures and geometry, this sculptural, Neutra-inspired prefab charms with its futuristic yet familiar design that is anything but forgettable.
Unlike Massie’s one-off creation, the Lake House in northern Michigan uses mass-produced materials with the intention to create sustainable modern homes at an affordable price. Built of prefabricated parts assembled on site, the chic lakeside home serves as the proof-of-concept house for Hygge Supply, a contemporary kit-home company founded by Kelly Sean Karcher. Carefully sited on marshy land, the rectangular 1,500-square-foot home takes advantage of panelized structural design for quick construction times, an energy-efficient envelope, and zero-waste assembly on site.
To reduce building costs on Wisconsin’s Madeline Island, Minneapolis-based Lazor/Office and MSR Architects turned to prefabrication to realize a client’s dream of a weekend retreat on a remote site. Since the island is only accessible by ferry, the architects prefabricated two modules for the 1,603-square-foot cabin that were then loaded onto a truck and then set onto the site atop elevated posts. Heating, plumbing and electricity were all pre-installed.
When Tim Wright, the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright, decided to build a home near Taliesin, he turned to prefab to fit his brief for a flexible second home with minimal landscape impact. Working with California-based prefab company Blu Homes, Wright selected the Balance model—a steel-framed modular structure with a flexible floor plan, large windows, and a subdued appearance so as to keep focus on the landscape, the primary draw of the project.
Designed as an experiment in sustainable, small-space living, the E.D.G.E. (Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment) is a 325-square-foot partial-prefab cabin that took only four months to construct. Father-and-son duo Bill and Daniel Yudchitz of Revelations Architects designed and built the dwelling with a multifunctional interior accented by transforming custom-build furniture, all of which was CNC cut like the rest of the wood interior. Oriented for passive solar orientation, the prefab home was temporarily put on display at a renewable energy fair before being moved to its current wooded site overlooking Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin.
Over two days, Chicago-based design studio Urbanlab oversaw the assembly of 20 acid-etched concrete panels into a three-story building shell that houses the live/work headquarters of Upton’s Naturals, a vegan food company in Chicago’s West Town. Conceived as a mixed-use development, the building is not only a home and office, but also provides space for a yoga studio and a public cafe. Ticking all the boxes for the clients, the prefab building is both contemporary and cost-effective while staying sensitive to the neighborhood’s industrial heritage.
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