David Rockwell–an architect best known for theaters, grand restaurant interiors, and posh hotels–is getting into the prefab game.
He has partnered with Fred Carl* of the appliance company Viking Range to build the first luxury prefabricated homes for Carl’s new modular housing venture, C3 Design, Inc. Rockwell says that the modular homes will offer “a luxury design at a less than luxury price.” He will unveil the design for a house called “Pinwheel” today at the Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles.
Prefab architecture is typically associated with affordable housing, not luxury design. Because prefab buildings are constructed offsite, then shipped for assembly, they are less resource-intensive than traditional buildings. Rockwell and his team hope that with some architectural finesse, they can create stylish digs with minimal environmental impact. “Prefab didn’t need to mean compromise in any way,” he says in a phone interview. Ultimately, the architect plans to work with C3 to design interior additions like prefab wine cellars.
Creating a home that doesn’t necessarily look like a cookie-cutter container became one of the key challenges. “When you have a building block like a rectangle, you don’t want to have a railroad situation,” Rockwell says. “That limitation became the key contributing factor to the design.”
His 2,400-square-foot house consists of four rectangular rooms arranged around a 500-square-foot interior courtyard. Rockwell was inspired by his childhood in Mexico, where “outdoor space was part of the lifestyle.” The house features two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, with a study that can be converted into an additional bedroom. The kitchen comes complete with a 10-foot-long marble island and professional grade appliances. “I love the fact that you have this little private retreat where you can entertain outdoors and it’s connected directly to the kitchen,” Rockwell says.
Since a prefab house can be shipped anywhere, Rockwell wanted to find a way to ensure the houses could fit into the local landscape, even if that landscape looked radically different from one buyer to the next. The exterior of the house will have a variety of aesthetics so that it can blend in just as well in Phoenix as it does in Honolulu. A hanging screen on the outside of the house–available in everything from steel to reclaimed wood to green landscaping–offers another way to give the house a more tailored aesthetic. “In a modular landscape, what we try to do is come up with a design that is very flexible,” Rockwell says. The more customizable a house is, the less it looks like it came straight off a conveyor belt.
For some, that means an eco-friendly way to build a swank vacation home. For others, it may make a carefully designed home a slightly more budget-friendly option (prices haven’t been released yet). Rockwell homes for the masses! Ish.
*An earlier version of this article referred to the founder of Viking Range as Carl Fred. His name is Fred Carl.