[$99,000 house]










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In The 1940’s Buckminster Fuller designed a utopian house

that resembled a spacecraft.  It embodied the American faith that technology,

science and industry could solve social, and even, spiritual, problems.

There was tremendous demand for the Dymaxion House, but the start-up

costs were high and Fuller was a notoriously bad businessman.

In the end, a few were made by hand, but the project never fulfilled

the promise implied by the mechanical reproducibility of the design.

Now it is 2009.  Digital images silently reproduce themselves

via the internet. Architects try to reify digital space.

Science and technology have had a fascinating, but ambiguous

trajectory through the landscape of human satisfaction.

We find ourselves in a strange ideological position.

The $99,000 house, however, is not an ideological proposition,

but a practical one. Years-long trade imbalance with the Far East has left

the ports of Europe and North America with huge surpluses of the shipping

containers that convey goods from the cheap manufacturers in

Asia to the omnivorous consumers in the West.

The containers are cheap and plentiful and have interesting structural

and spatial properties. Fit up with other simple industrial products,

they make houses that deliver the basic material decency that early

20century émigré architects sought, but had to simulate,

through hand craftsmanship.

Add to this unlikely scenario Albert Hadley,

the “dean of American decorators” who has worked on

two White House renovations and has helped a generation of

socially prominent families style their homes. It turns out that he has

always had a secret longing to work on more democratic design questions,

but has been trapped in rarified social realms. He brings another

enriching range of reference and experience to the project.

Finally, add Butler Manufacturing,

the oldest and largest American steel building maker, to the mix.

They actually worked with Fuller in the 1930’s on transportable military

housing made from grain silos. Butler has a worldwide network of

builders that is capable of putting up buildings anywhere.
 

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