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Part IV: Breaking up With Prefab for Good

Welcome to Curbed's original series Homeward Bound, in which long-affirmed city dweller and design journalist Karrie Jacobs documents her process as a first-time home builder. Jacobs, a professional observer of the man-made landscape, was the founding editor of Dwell magazine and the author of The Perfect $100,000 House: A Trip Across America and Back in Pursuit of a Place to Call Home (Viking, 2006). This eight-part series is a continuation of Jacobs's pursuit to solve the puzzle of modest, modern, and regional domestic architecture, using a recently-acquired parcel in upstate New York as a first-person case study.


My role in the great 21st-century Prefab Revival was largely an accident of timing. In mid-1999, I applied for a job editing a new magazine about modern residential design. Around that same moment, I met with a pair of New York architects, Sulan Kolatan and Bill MacDonald, who had a wondrous scheme to plant an outlandishly freeform house in the Connecticut countryside: It would be composed of a fiberglass shell manufactured by a boat company and was intended to serve as a prototype for a legion of similarly fabricated homes. I was so smitten with the concept that it became the inspiration for the sample magazine issue I was asked to dream up as part of the interview process.

But I now have mixed feelings about the whole prefab phenomenon. >>