Dwell’s Top 10 Prefabs of 2019

Dwell’s Top 10 Prefabs of 2019

By Lauren Conklin
From a shingle-clad retreat in Patagonia to a sculptor’s live/work cabin, these are the most innovative prefabs of the year.

The appeal of prefab homes stems from their accessibility, affordability, and streamlined design that results in less environmental waste. Plus, as evident from many of the prefabs we featured this year, the modular nature of their construction allows builders to stage these low-impact homes in truly spectacular, remote locations. Read on to see the prefabricated homes and cabins that most captivated our readers this year, from lakeside in Patagonia to hillside in Taiwan.

10. A Shingle-Clad Prefab Anchored on Patagonia’s Largest Lake

In wild, rugged Patagonia, Chilean architectural firm SAA Arquitectura + Territorio has crafted a comfortable and contemporary home in a notoriously inhospitable environment where access to materials and labor is limited. The exterior is entirely sheathed in shingles made from locally sourced lenga wood, a species native to the Patagonia-Andean forests.

The challenges posed by the remote terrain were a tradeoff for the site’s spellbinding beauty. The Santiago-based client selected a spot on the shores of the largest lake in Patagonia, Lake General Carrera, for its turquoise-blue waters, snow-capped granite mountains, and glittering glaciers in the distance.

Soon after purchasing a picturesque lakeside property an hour and a half north of Manhattan, a couple with school-age children found themselves facing a new question: how would they build a bespoke vacation home in time for their kids’ next summer break?

On the recommendation of a close friend, the couple flew to Texas to meet the team behind the award-winning architecture firm Lake|Flato, whose Porch House program seemed to offer the perfection solution to the family’s quick-build needs.

Located in Ojochal, Costa Rica, at the edge of a large tropical rain forest, the multi-disciplinary firm of A-01 (A Company / A Foundation) designed a prefabricated home that would respond to its local environment by exclusively using passive climate control.

The steel structure acts as the main frame holding up the outside and inside facades; the frame is painted white to help reflect sunlight and reduce heat absorption.

RES4’s modular approach provides a Brooklyn family with a beautiful weatherproof retreat on Long Island. Designed as a hybrid between a double-wide and a courtyard house, the 1,650-square-foot North Fork Bay House was prefabricated off-site as two modules. In addition to time and cost savings, prefabrication helped address the restricted building site, which has a very long and narrow footprint limited by FEMA setback regulations and zoning laws.

In addition to the workshop, the ground level holds an outdoor shower with easy beach access, a beach equipment storage closet, and a seasonal half bath.

This one-bedroom NODE prefab slots perfectly into a Seattle backyard and produces all of its own energy—with enough leftover to power the neighboring house.

The living room is simply furnished with an IKEA cowhide rug, a France and Son floor lamp, a replica of the Hans Wegner CH07 Lounge Chair, and tropical plants for a pop of color. Double pocket doors provide privacy.

For Mount Washington Residence, McBride Architects use prefabrication to save on costs while going big on functionality and style.

The four-bed, four-bath home of Peter and Sarah Diamond and their two adult children is uniquely situated in one of the most remote areas of the Berkshires: Mount Washington, Massachusetts. 

Built on a tight budget of $120,000, a retirement home in the mountains delivers unexpected contemporary design to a rural township.

Eager to leave Taipei behind for a quieter life in the mountains, a retired Taiwanese couple took the recommendation of their son-in-law and hired Spanish architect Urdaneta Zeberio to realize their vision of an affordable retirement home in rural Nanzhuang, two hours north of Taichung. The open-plan living areas and outdoor terrace are located on the south side of the home.

Comprising 11 modules, this green-roofed prefab was built in 90 days in a factory near São Paulo and then transported to the site in three shipments on flatbed trucks.

Nearly 500 miles from the high-rise apartment that Ralph Weigand and Maurício Uhle share in São Paulo sits a modest, prefabricated cabin, nestled deep in one of southern Brazil’s verdant forests.

Built as a live/work space for a sculptor, Indigo by Dutch practice Woonpioniers is an eco-friendly, prefabricated cabin with bent wooden walls.

All the interior woodwork, including the bed and staircase drawers, was custom-made by Blind Interieur.

In Finland, two students with little experience but a lot of gumption design a minimalist home in the woods and build most of it—from the roofing to the stovepipes—on their own.

A view of the light-filled kitchen. Due to a tiny budget, the duo couldn’t afford to buy furniture and instead used midcentury furnishings they collected in Germany and found on Bergmann’s grandparents’ property. All of the furnishings were measured beforehand, and the modular frames were designed around them to ensure the perfect fit.


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