17 January 2008

New Modernism in Philadelphia

Anyone who is a fan of mid-century modern architecture and furniture must realize the paradox of looking back with longing and affection at the objects of an era whose key principle was optimism about looking forward into the future. That’s why it’s important when looking back to learn what the classical modernists were doing and adapt it to the needs for today (a paradox and an oxymoron in the same paragraph -- not bad).

This story, in Metropolis, examines a very new collaboration, between Interface Studio Architects, “a 29-year-old fledgling developer named Chad Ludeman, and a local custom-home builder, Level 5,” that wants to take the best characteristics of modernism and translate them into sustainable buildings in a part of Philadelphia that needs to be revitalized. Here’s an excerpt from the story, which was written by Karrie Jacobs:

Ludeman embarked on a research project, trying to figure out a way to build affordable, green Mod­ern houses in his own neighborhood. He financed the new business by selling the house he and his wife had rehabbed. Ludeman decided he didn’t want to go the fashionable prefab route but preferred to start a “stock-houses program” that would allow buyers to choose from a small inventory of designs, much like KB Homes or Toll Brothers. He thought his best bet was to use structural insulated panels (SIPs), a common cut-to-order wall, floor, or roof component. And he wanted to build these houses on a budget of $100,000. They would be small—1,000 to 1,200 square feet. (The average Amer­ican house hit 2,300 square feet last year.) Ludeman's blog—yes, he’s blogging his way through the process—lists some arguments for the small dimensions: “Homeowners will be able to say things like, ‘I can fit five of my houses in your McMansion,’ or ‘My house is smaller than your garage.’ ”

Assuming they make it through Philly’s permit process, the collaborators are planning to put their first two 100K Houses on a lot in Kensington in early 2008. The houses will be Modern in style and built with recycled materials, state-of-the-art insulation and seals, passive solar heating, and Energy Star appliances, all points eligible for LEED-for-homes certification. “More aggressive greening is offered as an add-on,” Phillips notes. The houses will be oriented so that a photovoltaic array could be added in the future. One of them will be roughly 1,035 square feet with two bedrooms, which Ludeman hopes to price at about $215,000. The other will be a slightly larger two-bedroom that will sell for $245,000. “Hopefully, I’ll make a little bit of money so that my wife doesn’t tell me I have to close down my business,” he says.

It’s called the $100,000 house, and someone (Ludeman, I think) is blogging about it, here. It's small-time stuff and by itself it's not going to stop the sea-level rise of mcmansionism, but it's a start. -- TA

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