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Prefab Houses On Show at MoMA

A new exhibition explores the evolution of the prefabricated house

One of New York's most exciting cultural venues this summer is a vacant lot in Midtown Manhattan. There, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which adjoins the site, is staging part of a new exhibition, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. Organized by Barry Bergdoll, the museum's chief curator of architecture and design, and curatorial assistant Peter Christensen, the show explores the story of the prefabricated house. "The show is very impressive," says noted architectural historian, Kenneth Frampton. "The historical survey is rather amazing. I don't believe anyone has put up an exhibition on prefabrication quite like this."

Home Delivery actually begins inside the museum, on the sixth floor, where a sweeping display of drawings, films, photographs, models, and partial reconstructions investigate the history of prefab, tracing its lineage to the early 19th century and exploring its intimate affiliations with Modernist and contemporary discourse. The show combines scholarly heft with alluring artifacts, signaling a promising turn for MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design, under the new leadership of Bergdoll, who joined the museum in 2007. Prior to his hiring, the department had come under criticism: In 2006, The New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff called it "sadly adrift," staging shows that were "largely forgettable."