Joel Turkel on the Future of Prefab

By Joel Turkel / Published by Dwell
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The future of prefab is an increasingly nonarchitectural problem.

Traditionally, architects have tried to design things to be prefabricated using either existing or new means, as opposed to designing functional and integrated delivery methods. Prefab will continue to be a niche approach until we can add to the understanding of what is possible. This means recognizing that design is only one of many imperatives in the prefab question.

Real development for the industrywill come from young designers who are able to approach the problem from a more globalized vantage point. This group is able to think in terms of complete front-to-back business models. They are aware of the needs and limits of manufac-turing processes but also are versed in new technologies, entrepreneurial methods, how capital works, strategic partnerships, and the importance of marketing and branding. This group will not design buildings but rather solutions for distributed delivery methods like those promoted by Kent Larson at MIT, who is leading the way toward rationalized industry-wide changes to benefit us all, rather than just promoting an individual vision or aesthetic.


Joel Turkel


Born in Seattle and raised in British Columbia, Joel Turkel earned a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from the University of Manitoba, and Masters of Architecture from MIT where he was named the Ann Beha traveling fellow. He is a recipient of the Marvin E. Goody prize in Architecture for his work on prefabricated residential building systems. Turkel worked under architect Fernando Domeyko-Perez and with several international groups including the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture in both India and Syria; the Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Ethiopia; and the Space in and In-Between Workshop under the direction of architects Steven Holl, Fumihiko Maki and Frank Gehry.

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