Prefab Homes: But What Would Frank Lloyd Wright Say?

The Frank Lloyd Wright School tries its hand at prefab with an instant desert home.

Ninety-eight years ago Frank Lloyd Wright launched a pioneering scheme to build prefabricated homes with pre-cut framing, cabinets and other factory-made parts.


Based on building practices he’d seen in Japan, Wright called it (ironically enough) the American System of Housing. World War I intruded, and he built only a handful.


Earlier this year Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright school outside Phoenix, returned to prefab with the Mod.Fab Home, a 960-square foot home designed specifically for desert living.


The project resulted from a class taught by Jennifer Siegal, a leading prefab practitioner based in Venice, Calif. A prototype was built almost entirely by students on the rolling desert campus. It’s now used as a guesthouse with furnishings loaned by Design Within Reach


Mod.Fab may be the greenest prefab to date. It was designed for use on or off the grid. Unplugged it relies on rainwater collection, reusable greywater, and photovoltaics. Solar panels are placed on a garden wall, which allows builders to use it as a power source during construction.


Taliesin has received inquiries from prospective buyers, Siegal said, but no orders will be taken until an arrangement has been made for manufacturing. It will sell for roughly $100,000, which makes it half the cost of the the most widely promoted modernist prefabs. I have to believe Frank would approve. “I would rather solve the small house problem,” he said, “than build anything else I can think of.”

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