Post (Pre)Fabrication

Post (Pre)Fabrication

Investigating New Spatial And Formal Expressions In Prefabrication & CAD/CAM Processes

Course: Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle Foreign Studies Design Competition, Undergraduate Design Studio – Arch 401

Instructor: Luis Boza, Assistant Professor

Semester: Fall 2004

Throughout the history of modern architecture, mass-production, mass-customization, and prefabrication have been explored as answers to the problem of housing. As a closed system of logic, the result was either an end (product) that aspired to a stylized images of the future, or an application of means that were limited by the modes of repetitious factory production, coupled with a certain indifference to the site.

The chic style of the mass produced house as a “machine for living” repeated in the landscape is over. While the problem has been deeply problematized and the solutions interesting in their logics, “architecture” has failed to spring from their techniques, more often than not reducing the problem of dwelling to one of containment. Beyond the aesthetic and the limitations of more conventional means of production, the problem of the prefabrication dwelling persists.

Today, mass-customization has become more integrated with mass-production, and the effects have made room for an intense optimism. New developments have afforded us the possibility to parse the problem in a different way, to exploit the idea that different parts of a building might be conceptualized according to different means of production.

Computer Aided Design & Manufacturing (CAD-CAM), first developed in other fields, has increasingly been adopted by the building industry. Developments in CAD/CAM in design processes have supported the notion of prefabrication ranging from the mass-produced to the mass-customized. Such developments have not only contributed to a further advancement of prefabrication processes in architecture, but also have promoted new spatial and formal expressions.

It is this notion- new spatial and formal expressions in prefabrication & CAD/CAM processes- that the “post preFABRICATION” Studio will explore.


Despite the house’s relatively small size, at least compared to other architectural typologies, the private house has found a unique position throughout the history of architecture.  It has and continues to be man’s most fundamental building block, it’s most irreducible component, providing an essential daily need- shelter.

By applying an advanced technology to architecture’s most basic typology- a shelter- the studio hopes to expand on the question of what a house is.  The studio aspires to change the way people think about housing and the way we, as architects, design it and construct it, and ultimately the way individuals live in it.  And what it should look like….


Digital fabrication technologies will have a significant impact on the traditional role of the architect and our responsibilities in the design process, as methods become more accepted.  Our assumptions about material usage, fabrication, construction, and the economies of scale will need careful reconsideration as we integrate the use of digital technologies into our design process. Taking complex construction off of the job site and into the shop, allows tolerances to be maintained, assemblies to be tested, and quality to be controlled at the scale of a handrail, millwork, wall or room. But how do the peculiarities of personal experiences and landscapes continue to inform architecture, when the methods of fabrication become less site specific?  How can the digital world help us learn more about the physical world?

Mass Production was the ideal of the early twentieth century. Mass-Customization is the recently emerged reality of the twenty-first century. We have always customized architecture to recognize differences. Customization ran at cross purpose to the twentieth-century model of mass-production. Mass-Customization is a hybrid. It proposes new processes to build using automated production, but with the ability to differentiate each artifact from those that are fabricated before and after. The ability to differentiate, to distinguish architecture based on site, use, and desire, is a prerequisite to success that has eluded our predecessors. With the information control tools we now have, we are able to visualize and manage off-site fabrication of mass-customized architecture.


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