Jens Risom’s Block Island Family Retreat, Rhode Island, Built in 1967
“The popular magazines were all saying that one couldn’t build a summer home for less than $25,000,” recalls Jens Risom, seated comfortably in a chair of his own design inside his home in New Canaan, Connecticut. “So I contacted Life magazine and said, ‘well, I have one.’”
Life magazine was impressed, not just with the project but with Risom himself—at that point, the designer had already won decades of accolades in modern furniture circles. The resulting article, a lushly photographed ode to Risom’s customized A-frame that he sourced from a catalog and had delivered in pieces to his remote island site off Rhode Island, helped to raise the aesthetic profile of modular construction. At the time, prefab suffered from a public-perception problem—the post–World War II housing boom and the subsequent need for quickly produced, kit-assembly structures had given the landscape of “ready-mades” a “dreary sameness” and a “cheapjack reputation.” Risom’s structure, with its use of weathered wood, soaring cathedral ceiling, and expansive openness tied to its bucolic location, set a new standard for what prefab could look like.
The cabin is set in Isdammen, Norway, and features picturesque views of a small lake and surrounding forest. Woody consists of 29 cross-laminated timber elements, which make Woody easy to assemble and dismantle. Massiv Lust produced the elements, which all have a maximum width of 1.20 meters.
From the architect: Woody15 is a 17.5 sqm one-room cabin, with large glass doors opening up to the outside landscape. It has no kitchen, bathroom or electricity, and is only heated by a small wood-burning stove. It can function as an annexe, or stand alone with an outdoor kitchen and outside lavatory.
These houses, which can be plopped down nearly anywhere–on roofs, in deserts, on riverbanks–offer stylish alternatives to mobile homes for the contemporary nomad. Some can be built up in the course of a day, then broken down again, like giant Legos. And, as we all know by now, such homes are far more eco-friendly than resource-guzzling McMansions.