No Less True: Mies vs Modular
In the early days of iron and steel, these new building materials were seen as a practical solution to building issues, not aesthetic ones. Steel was something structural and capital engineers embraced early because it solved a building size and economic problem. Engineers like Gustav Eiffel learned early on how to exploit metal for long spans, primarily in bridges. When Eiffel turned a bridge 90 degrees and created the Eiffel Tower he opened a lot of eyes to the architectural expression steel can take. Yet, it took a couple more decades before Ludwig Mies van der Rohe came along and figured out how to make poetry and architecture out of steel.
Mies gave us great insight into his way of thinking when he said:
“This is no less true of steel and concrete than of wood, brick and stone. We must remember that everything depends on how we use a material, not on the material itself. New materials are not necessarily superior. Each material is only what we make it.”
Modular and off-site construction have been around for many decades now solving only practical problems. If Mies found himself in our time he might say:
“This is no less true of off-site construction than of on-site construction. We must remember that everything depends on how we use a method of construction, not on the method itself. New methods are not necessarily superior. Each method is only what we make it.”
It is time to thank the engineers for developing modular and off-site methods, but now it is also time for poetry and architecture in modular and off-site construction to emerge.
© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011