Move Along! Prefabrication, Placemaking and Precarious Housing

United States
Histories of architectural prefabrication highlight two primary trajectories. Techno-enthusiasts promote the potential for flat-packed designer dwellings to revolutionize modern life. Historians focused on market forces highlight the role of factory-built houses in providing affordable, permanent homes for millions. This panel addresses a third, lesser-told history of prefabrication, imbricated in material realities of war, colonial campaigns, environmental transformation, and housing insecurity. We examine structures made to be moved from factory to site but designed to allow movement to continue. Ease of assembly and reassembly, mobility, de-mountability, and swift construction by low-skilled laborers, were—and remain—characteristics of built environments such as military encampments, colonizing outposts, disaster response zones, and temporary agricultural settlements. Often, the refugees, soldiers, or migrant workers who inhabit these structures are expected to remain on the move, to avoid making a site their home. This panel explores the politics and poetics of prefabricated placemaking. We ask: how does this lens make visible understudied populations and historical events? How can studying the impermanent presence of structures in a landscape foreground the aesthetics of site for architectural history? How has the inherent dislocation of movable architecture challenged historiography, theory and canon, beyond agitations of celebrated vanguardists? Organizers solicit papers mining this critical vein of architectural history from any methodological angle. In recognition of the objects’ inherent movability, as well as the transnational character of the violence and crises in which these design practices are enmeshed, organizers set no geographical or chronological bounds on research.
Key Dates:
  • By 16 September, send proposals directly to session Chair(s) via the email(s) listed with the selected session abstract.
  • By 23 September,  chairs will finalize their sessions, inform participants via email invitation, and add accepted presenters to their session entry.
  • Upon acceptance, presenters must join and or keep CAA memberships current through March 5 (you may apply with a non-member ID). Only members can be added to a Session.
  • Conference takes place 16-19 February 2021

To submit, gather the following and send via email to the chair(s) listed before 16 September 2021:

  1. Completed proposal form (click to download).
  2. A shortened CV (close to 2 pages).
  3. (Optional) Documentation of work when appropriate, limit to five images as a single PDF, especially for sessions in which artists might discuss their own practice.

The session abstract can be found here.

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