Jennifer Siegal has spent more than a decade researching and creating portable architecture. The firm she founded and runs, Office of Mobile Design in Venice, Calif., produces prefab homes, schools, and commercial projects. And she has a book out this fall called More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95). She spoke with residential architect from Florence, Italy, where she's been traveling recently.
What are some of your firm's current projects? “A project I'm really excited about (though it's not 100 percent confirmed just yet) is a series of prefab housing units for the elderly in the city of Hawthorne, Calif. Another pending project is a series of bathroom units for the Los Angeles Unified School District.”
What do you think of the current market for prefab homes? “Obviously, I'm incredibly optimistic in general. Especially in my region of southern California, we've seen a huge group of enthusiastic dwellers and users and a lot of buildings being built. It's a better way of producing dwellings: less waste, less time. Which potentially leads to less cost, but the only way you get there is by having more demand. In the next five years, the industry is going to continue to move forward. It's not just a flash in the pan.”
Which other prefab architects and designers do you admire? “Marmol Radziner + Associates—the work they've been doing is really commendable. Michelle Kaufmann, AIA, LEED AP, has been doing really good work. And Rocio Romero.”
What is the subject of your new book? “It's about things happening around the world in terms of portable architecture. There are some incredible solutions out there ... it's a global movement. Being here [in Italy], I see this concept is something that is really important for a lot of people. In some ways, I see the antithesis of mobile architecture here—I see buildings built hundreds of years ago. That's really interesting, but to me it's a monument. I'm [more] interested in ideas of the present and future. I'd love to try to imagine what would happen if you could actually take your dwelling with you when you travel.”