In the East Hampton village of Amagansett, Manhattan-based MB Architecture has completed their largest—and most complex—prefab project to date: a 1,800-square-foot shipping container home that emphasizes indoor/outdoor living.
"[It’s the] culmination of 10 years of research prototyping," says Maziar Behrooz, founder of MB Architecture. His award-winning cargotecture work drew the attention of the clients, a couple with three young children, who had been looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous wood-shingled homes in the Amagansett area.
"The fact that our prefab projects are less expensive and take less time to build was an additional incentive," adds Behrooz.
The home, dubbed the Amagansett Modular House, is modeled after MB Architecture’s insta_house—a scalable, prefab structure made of four 40-foot-long shipping containers that can be stacked together and installed in just one day.
To meet the clients’ requirements for a four-bedroom, three-bath retreat, the architects expanded upon the insta_house blueprint with an additional 40-foot container on the north side—connected to the main double-height volume via a glassed-in walkway—as well as a 10-foot container that hangs off the second floor.
These modifications also respond to the sloping site, which informed the placement and orientation of the west-facing building. The external corrugated metal walls were painted black to help the building recede into the landscape, while multiple floor-to-ceiling windows and glazed doors create seamless connections between the interiors and the outdoors.
"We wanted to create a comfortable, playful, and fun interior for both kids and parents," explains Behrooz of the open layout and dramatic, geometric facade. "And to illustrate how a small house may feel very spacious."
The containers were prefabricated off site before being trucked to the site and installed in two days. The kitchen cabinets, bathroom tiles and fixtures, glassed-in walkway, landscape elements, and pool were added in the weeks after installation.
The speed and efficiency of construction also helped reduce costs, which, excluding the landscape elements and pool, were "in the low to mid $300s per square foot," says Behrooz. "While this is a very high number in, say, upstate New York, it’s significantly lower than average for its location on the east end of Long Island, where construction can cost $500 to $800 per square foot. Our cost of construction is region dependent."
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the project was how infrequently Behrooz met face-to-face with the clients. The busy couple chose to meet the architects a handful of times, and only twice on site—once when they first purchased the land, and the second time when the house was nearly complete. This arrangement that was somewhat unusual for the practice, which is accustomed to recurrent client meetings.
"So, we were a little worried about how they would feel when coming, with their children, to see the finished house for the first time," says Behrooz. "Their reaction was super joyous, and each kid just ran into a room and found their space. Later that day, we received an email from them saying that the house ‘felt like a temple.’"
Builder/General Contractor: Gallanti Inc
Structural Engineer: Keith Ewing
Landscape Design: MB Architecture
Lighting Design: MB Architecture
Cabinetry Design/Installation: MB Architecture
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