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12 classic masterpieces to show you 50 years of modular architecture

Since the last century, architects have used modular thinking to conceive buildings and cities; the possibility of modular architecture has been a cornerstone of the culture of architectural design. Its main strength lies in taking advantage of the possibilities of infinite extension and expansion, recombining and constructing the basic elements, creating a legendary building that adapts to a diverse environment.

Modular architecture is often associated with the economic and technical convenience of industrialization, assembly and disassembly, and we have collected 12 of these works, many architects have experimented with urban and architectural scales, drawing rhythmic compositions and spatial systems that reveal the expressive and productive power of modularity.

Mobile housing units

Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso

Designed by architects Zanuso and Sapper for the 1972 exhibition“Italy: Landscape of the new country” at MOMA, the mobile housing unit proposes a flexible mobile housing module. Presented as a single unit, it is based on a combination of subunits and can be extended as needed. Has the potential repeatability and the extensibility.

Designed to respond to potential emergencies, the device has a one-year lifespan, is on a platform, is easy to carry and disassemble, and makes modularity a constructive fulcrum between ethics and design.

Habltat 67

Moshe Safdle

Habitat 67 was built to showcase the achievements of the prefabrication industry at the 1967 Montreal World's Fair to lead the public to rethink the unexplored possibilities of residential areas as part of the city.

The original proposal was more visionary than the final one, with a circular ramp for wheelchair access and a series of pedestrian streets running diagonally through the project, linking the houses together.

Only a portion of the house was built. The houses are located on 12 staggered floors and comprise 158 units. The combination of modular, freely driven spaces allows for the generation of private and shared environments in successive combinations of 365 prefabricated modules.

Nakagin Capsule Tower

Kisho Kurokawa

In the early 1970s, metabolic architect Kisho Kurokawa completed a two-tower design in which each house was converted into a 10-square-metre cabin.

The building is modular and features two load-bearing concrete bodies with individual pods and a white parallelogram with an outward circular opening.

The interior of the module is optimized by customizing the furniture and equipping the walls so that the combination of the modules can achieve an infinitely increasing or decreasing structure.

Despite its significance as one of the most famous works of the metabolic movement, it began to be removed in 2022 due to the gradual abandonment and deterioration of the capsule.

Cube houses

Peter Blom

Designed by Dutch architect Pitter Blom, the cube house consists of a series of successive houses, consisting of basement elements that lead to the house above, in a sloping cube form.

The project was first implemented in Helmond, where the architects imagined each module as the geometry of a tree, and later reconfigured it in Rotterdam.

With its distinctive yellow color, the cube houses form a complex of 39 buildings, with each rotating cube juxtaposed with the next one to create a forest atmosphere.

The Masonic Garden of the east

Paul Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria

Born out of a housing shortage, the project was built in New Haven and offers 148 prefabricated units consisting of 333 modules.

The houses consist mainly of two blocks overlooking private courtyards. The first block is on the ground floor, with a living area and kitchen, and the second block houses bedrooms and bathrooms.

The modules, with their vaulted roofs, expanded the interior space, and the project was arguably a pioneer in architectural experimentation through residential regeneration containers, but it still came under intense criticism and was eventually demolished in 1981.

Carrleres Centrales

George Candilis, Chadrac Woods, Alexis Josić

Carrieres Centrales is the culmination of a housing development and one of the most important demonstrations of modernism in the Maghreb.

The project was started in 1952 on the outskirts of Casablanca to accommodate the growing population of workers arriving in the city. The plan of the project is a grid, with a series of buildings arranged between the entity and the voids, it's like a matrix of inhabited people, locating the coordinates of the modules on a city scale.

The concept behind the project is much like the Le Corbusier's contemporary vision of shared social life in the glorious city, and the combination of closed and open spaces that can be seen in both the horizontal and the four taller buildings.

Amsterdam orphanage

Aldo Van Ike

In the late 1950s, Aldo Van Ike designed an urban structure for orphans. Located on the outskirts of Amsterdam, the building seems to be expanding, as if it were a small urban cluster spread over the entire site, with internal streets and architectural public spaces connecting rooms and functional spaces, rather than being integrated into the structure of the connection space as a module.

The Amsterdam orphanage is Van Ike's vision for a balanced community that has won international recognition and embodied his humanism theory in an already built project.

Centraal Beheer

Herman Herzberg

Many experiments have been carried out by the Dutch structuralism, among which the modularization of the building has yielded considerable results due to its structural complexity and rigor, as exemplified by the Centraal Beheer office building.

The work is composed of several cubic volumes, the exterior of which presents a closed and compact character, in sharp contrast to the open structure of the interior, where public spaces, courtyards and circulation spaces merge together, light seeps in through skylights and empty juxtaposition spaces. The building echoes some of the medieval designs, connecting the floors and modularizing the user's perception through the experience of the building itself.

University of Urbino dormitory

Giancarlo de Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro

Designed by Giancarlo de Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro, Urbino University dormitory is an experiment in residential units, echoing the steep shape of the Apennine region. De Carlo's project, which took two decades to build, was divided into a series of different complexes, replacing more than 1,000 homes in the Urbino area: different combinations defined the multi-centric structure of the college, modularity remakes the rules.

Casa Evolutlva

Renzo Piano

It was one of Renzo Piano's youth projects, showing how his interest in technology from his earliest experiments was linked to the possibility of providing innovative responses to different environments, built at Corciano between 1978 and 1982, the architects began with prefabricated reinforced concrete elements and configured a house with the potential to expand and generate an urban system in an emergency.

The concept of the evolutionary house is also named after the project itself, so that the space of the house can be adapted to various needs, the project is a re-use of houses designed by Giuseppe Peano and Peter Condoleezza Rice in Patrice Lauzon after the 1976 earthquake in the Friuli Julian March region of Italy.

Hokkaido children's treatment center, Japan

Sou Fujimoto

The mental rehabilitation center designed by Fujimoto in 2006 is a series of modules arranged freely on the site, forming a heterogeneous cluster. Each parallel hexahedron is spatially autonomous and can rotate and accommodate all functions required for the operation of the center, creating a small urban environment.

The juxtaposition of these objects as the building blocks of space leaves the children with the possibility of a continuous connecting space. The space is highly dynamic, never having the same view, and each part of the interior is different and unique.

New Town OMA

The Rem Koolhaas Dutch studio completed a system of 1,040 apartments in Singapore in 2013.

The modular theme here is not a single apartment, but a component of a larger volume: these parallel hexahedrons are stacked together and juxtaposed to form a series of hexagons, covering an area of eight hectares.

The building accommodates homes, swimming pools, gyms and other recreational functions, with 31 unusually large blocks stacked on top of each other, each measuring 70.5 x 22 x 16.5 meters, as if they were oversized bricks.

The repetition of the elements is vaguely reminiscent of the BILMERMEER complex in Amsterdam, but on a massive scale, like a tile hill, it forms part of the city.

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