Eco-Friendly Prefabs and the Modern Mobile Home: Spotlight on Jennifer Siegal

Eco-Friendly Prefabs and the Modern Mobile Home: Spotlight on Jennifer Siegal

By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Los Angeles-based designer Jennifer Siegal proudly embraces prefabricated design—and is on a mission to remove negative assumptions associated with mobile homes, while reimagining them for the future.

Just last week, Siegal was recognized with a 2017 AIA Los Angeles Chapter Residential Architecture Award for her home and project, Vertical Venice Prefab (V.V3), which has been featured in the pages of Dwell magazine. She's also the winner of the 2016 arcVision Prize—Women and Architecture, an international award reserved for women architects that's organized by Italcementi. As the first American to win the prize, Siegal was defined by the jury as "a fearless pioneer in the research and development of prefabricated construction systems," according to the USC School of Architecture, where Siegal holds the position of Adjunct Associate Professor. 

All this is in addition to the work that she does with her company The Office of Mobile Design, which Siegal founded in 1998. The name of the firm is a nod to her obsession with the transitory—as she focuses on "portable, demountable, and relocatable structures." 

Her work also explores prefabrication, using industrial processes to create a more efficient and flexible type of architecture. Wheels are an important part of OMD’s design approach, as Siegal examines how mobile structures are infinitely more functional. She explains, "For me, mobility is not about erasing everything that exists, but adding to the infrastructure in a more environmentally sound way—a more intelligent way of inhabiting the landscape—resting lightly on the ground."

She's the editor of both Mobile: the Art of Portable Architecture (2002), More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today (2008), and was the founder and series editor of Materials Monthly (2005–2006), which was published by Princeton Architectural Press. 

A visionary with her eye on the future, Siegal's groundbreaking projects range from a mobile "Eco-Lab" to a green prefab school. After having a look at some of her projects below, you'll see how this award-winning designer truly has her eyes on the future. 

Vertical Venice

The Vertical Venice Prefab (V.V3) is a triple-stacked steel modular addition to Siegal’s existing 1920s Venice bungalow home. Craned in over the existing home and installed in one day, the 560-square-foot modular addition uses a diagrid structural system that's wrapped in Polycarbonate panels to maximize light, energy, and efficiency. 

Vintage pieces furnish the library, which occupies the ground floor of the modular addition.

We also featured Siegal's freestanding, two-story studio that she created for her firm on her Venice property ("Method Lab", November 2007). This took place after she gutted the existing bungalow on the 4,900-square-foot lot and expanded the structure by installing a 200-square-foot truck trailer alongside it. This addition preceded the "Vertical Venice" addition featured above.

OMD Joshua Tree exhibits the ideas of prefabrication, flexibility, portability, and compact spaciousness. Originally located at the heart of Venice Beach’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard, it served as a model home and showroom to display OMD’s new work. Now relocated to the high desert of Joshua Tree—close to the national park entrance—the Joshua Tree Prefab is nestled into 80 acres of arid off-the-grid wilderness.

Talesin Mod.Fab was developed by students at Taliesin West in collaboration with Victor Sidy Siegal. The stunning result is an example of simple, elegant, and sustainable living in the desert. 

With a concept centered around educational, environmental, and fiscal responsibility, Siegal's design for The Country School is the first green prefab school in Los Angeles and was recognized as one of the five best buildings in Los Angeles in 2007 by the L.A. Times.

The AERO-Mobile is a movable, flexible exhibition and retail space made of recycled parts discarded by the aerospace industry. This impermanent architecture envisions buildings as a series of ULD’s (Unit Load Devices), up-cycled as exhibition space platforms and mounted on electric trucks—allowing for spontaneous pop-up experiences to be deployed throughout cities.

The Palisades Prefab being lowered into place. 

The concept for the project centers around educational, environmental, and fiscal responsibility. The 3,600-square-foot, two-story prefabricated house sits on a flat lot in an L-shape configuration.

The house contains four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. The open kitchen is by Boffi. 

This site-built house is a development of the original OMD Swellhouse. A modular grid of exposed steel columns and beams orchestrates the spatial and structural design of this open live/work project. 

This 16-foot-wide, four-steel framed module house has been carefully fitted into its 25-by-100-foot narrow lot. The lower floor is clad in light gray trowel stucco and the upper floor has horizontal Hardiplank, a green fiber cement siding.

The first floor contains a bright and airy open living/dining/kitchen space that faces a rear patio with large sliding glass doors. 

The Mobile ECO LAB was built in collaboration with the Hollywood Beautification Team, a grassroots group founded with the mission to restore beauty and integrity to the Hollywood community. 


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