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This is the story of what came to be known as the packaged house, one of the few architect-inspired attempts to manufacture and market a prefabricated home. The plan began in the 1940s as a major collaborative effort between Walter Gropius, then at the height of his fame, and Konrad Wachsmann, a rising star-both in exile from their native Germany. For both men, this was the culmination of many years of experience in the field of industrialized housing and an unparalleled opportunity to make their long-cherished dream of a factory-made house a reality. How did this venture, which seemed to have everything going for it, turn out to be such a dismal failure? The answers to that question make this one of the most fascinating studies in the annals of modern architecture.
Gilbert Herbert's analysis of the bold undertaking has within it not only the elements of personal drama, as far as Gropius and Wachsmann are concerned, but it unfolds consequences of more drastic significance for the development of industrially-produced housing the world over. Both architects represented a formidable combination of ability and experience; both had contributed significantly to the theory and practice of prefabrication, and had devised a system that was technically impeccable. That only a small number of these immaculately conceived and engineered houses was actually sold was not only a great disappointment for them, it was a grave shock to the whole movement for industrially-produced housing.
The facts of the Gropius-Wachsmann casenow fully disclosed with extensive visual documentationare instructive in themselves. But the real significance of this book lies in its ability to relate the facts to the history of industrialized housing and to the modern architect's confrontation with technological, economic, and social forces.