10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices

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By Gabrielle Golenda / Published by Dwell
In most cases, areas in a home are designated by their use and separated into different rooms accordingly.

Consequently, each space is designed for an intended use and are most commonly separated by a wall. As with all architectural typologies though, anomalies exist—spatial oddities, or if you will, multifaceted spaces that can coexist in a structure. Introducing modular spaces allows separate structures to act as their own entities, and at the same time, function together as a cohesive whole. 

Take a look at these modular homes, which explore different examples of how architecture can be arranged as a series of interconnected volumes. The 10 projects below demonstrate how a series of interconnected spaces can culminate in a unique, all-encompassing abode.  

Desert House Prefab by Marmol Radziner

Situated on a five-acre site in Desert Hot Springs, this abode is oriented to best capture views of San Jacinto peak and the surrounding mountains. Large open spaces visually connect the indoor and outdoor spaces, as the structure extends through the landscape with additional covered outdoor living areas. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 1 of 10 - The Desert House located in Desert Hot Springs is a steel structure designed with large. expansive windows and concrete flooring.

The Desert House located in Desert Hot Springs is a steel structure designed with large. expansive windows and concrete flooring.

Serra d'Espadà Residence by Aitor Iturralde Martín

Architect Aitor Iturralde Martín designed this pine-and-spruce-clad modular structure sourced from the Pyrenees (both recyclable and PEFC-certified). The simple double-module configuration is punctuated by a terrace and bold metal skeleton that cantilevers towards the landscape. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 2 of 10 - The 1,000-square-foot prefab took only 10 days to assemble. 

The 1,000-square-foot prefab took only 10 days to assemble. 

NOA Cabin by Jaanus Orgusaar 

 Designer/inventor Jaanus Orgusaar crafted a modular, hexagonal housing concept that creates space in geometric pattern. The rhombic dodecahedron is comprised as a shape found in nature (garnet, honeycomb, diamonds) in 270-square-foot modules, which make the interior appear rounded due to a lack of acute angles. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 3 of 10 - Jaanus Orgusaar's NOA cabin in the Virumaa region of Estonia is currently used as a summer cottage.

Jaanus Orgusaar's NOA cabin in the Virumaa region of Estonia is currently used as a summer cottage.

Sonoma weeHouse by Alchemy

 Architects Geoffrey Warner and BJ Siegel collaborated to design this prefab home in the Sonoma Mountains that offers uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape through glass walls. Once two concrete plinths were poured and prepared, the modular residence was constructed in a single day after a pair of prefabricated cubes were lowered into place by crane and bolted down. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 4 of 10 - Both prefab modules are clad in Cor-Ten steel, enabling the main cube to dramatically cantilever out over its foundation.

Both prefab modules are clad in Cor-Ten steel, enabling the main cube to dramatically cantilever out over its foundation.

Koby Cottage by Garrison Architects 

Architect Jim Garrison of Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects designed a retreat in Albion, Michigan, for visiting families on a picturesque lakeside stretch of land at a boarding school for troubled teens. The project emulates an X-shaped formation, with one end outfitted with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking waterfront shore.  

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 5 of 10 - Fabricated entirely offsite at Kullman’s 180,000-square-foot factory in New Jersey, the building was rested on its concrete foundation in one day.

Fabricated entirely offsite at Kullman’s 180,000-square-foot factory in New Jersey, the building was rested on its concrete foundation in one day.

A Bipartite Modular System by DublDom

Anna Gor—director of the Arsenal National Centre of Contemporary Art in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia—decided against a custom project in favor of a prefab alternative. The structure features a porch at each end that's lined with stained plywood. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 6 of 10 - The pitched roof of Anna Gor’s house outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, is a signature of the DublDom modular system.

The pitched roof of Anna Gor’s house outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, is a signature of the DublDom modular system.

Skyline Residence by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson 

Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, this modular residence camouflages into the Oregon landscape with spectacular views of the surrounding area. Resting along the edge of a sparsely forested plateau near Bend, Oregon, the willowy building is intentionally oriented towards unobstructed views of the Cascade Mountains. The front facade is clad in fiber cement panels that feature a bright green entrance ramp and red door.  

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 7 of 10 - Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design for the Verheyden clan is instantly legible from the back deck, where the repetition of trusses, windows, and lumber creates a strong linear profile.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s design for the Verheyden clan is instantly legible from the back deck, where the repetition of trusses, windows, and lumber creates a strong linear profile.

Maison Amtrak by Peter Cohen

Just outside of Ellsworth, Maine, Peter Cohen designed this ingenious spine-and-module home for himself and his wife Sally. With experience designing a handful of smart, inexpensive, and structurally innovative houses over the last half century, the architect worked with the irregular, sloping site with views of the woods. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 8 of 10 - A series of long stairs leads to Maison Amtrak, which is set below street level. The entranceway demonstrates Cohen’s love of Japanese design with a geometric simplicity matched only by the formal elegance of the stained Douglas fir two-by-fours.

A series of long stairs leads to Maison Amtrak, which is set below street level. The entranceway demonstrates Cohen’s love of Japanese design with a geometric simplicity matched only by the formal elegance of the stained Douglas fir two-by-fours.

Fishers Island Home by 4 Architecture 

 4 Architecture designed this Fishers Island residence with warm cedar cladding and white windows as an homage to the New England vernacular. The unconventional prefab was built with a customized floor plan by stacking, lining up, and joining factory-built, rectangular modules.  

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 9 of 10 - To date, this is the largest prefab house the firm has completed with eight modules approaching 4,500 square feet.

To date, this is the largest prefab house the firm has completed with eight modules approaching 4,500 square feet.

Custom Prefab House by Marmol Radziner 

This modular vacation home was designed by Los Angeles firm Marmol Radziner for California–based landscape architects who have been working together for 25 years. The structure was built with "simple-simple, replaceable materials," with concrete floors and metal siding. 

10 Modular Dwellings That Break Away From Traditional Building Practices - Photo 10 of 10 - Deep overhangs provide shade and protection from rain, so the Burtons can leave their doors open year-round and hang out on their 70-foot-long deck even in inclement weather. 

Deep overhangs provide shade and protection from rain, so the Burtons can leave their doors open year-round and hang out on their 70-foot-long deck even in inclement weather.