Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ensamble Studio's POPLab Prototype in Brookline

Photos © Ensambl,e Studio

Spanish architects Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril have built a prefab prototype as their Boston home. It's the subject of my latest article in the April-May issue of Mark magazine (Holland).

Here are some excerpts from the text (article not available online):

"The Cyclopean House is a live-work loft, built over a former garage in Brookline, Massachusetts, where the Spanish architects Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril live with their three children. The house is also the first completed prototype for a novel system of prefabrication that the couple is developing at the POPLab, which they founded at MIT in 2013, and in their architectural practice known as Ensamble Studio."

"The key to the system is the use of large sections of expanded, high-density polystyrene foam, popularly known as Styrofoam, which is the core of prefab elements…. The architects shape the foam into beams with different profiles, including Is, Ls and Cs. They reinforce it with an exoskeleton of galvanized steel studs, and finish it with a double layer of 6mm cement board."

"The experiment is driven by their interest in developing an "ultra-light" prefab system that, "without adding mass, provides tectonic qualities of solidity and firmness," Antón explains."

"The galvanized steel framing on the interior reads in many ways like conventional wood trim, recalling Japanese paneled interiors, as Antón points out, or perhaps the Prairie Houses of Frank Lloyd Wright…. These references are coherent with the essential concept of the prefab units, which use modern versions of the materials of traditional American balloon-frame construction."

"Antón considers their system a hybrid between American and European building concepts, between the balloon frame and the solid wall. "Compare houses by Richard Meier and Eduardo Souto de Moura," he says. "There's a difference in weight. European construction is about the continuum, solidity, firmitas. We've put together these two traditions, to try to get the best of both. Prefabricating, but not in little pieces. Light but not thin. Solid and thick, building walls, not frames." "

Case Studt in Prefab
Mark, April  - May 2017, p. 152 - 159

More pictures and plans:
Divisaire Journal, July 29, 2016

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