Prefab Society: Swiss modular building systems between social utopia and pressure of use

The research seminar aims to analyze examples of Swiss modular buildings dating from the 1940s to -70s using diverse empirical material. The main focus is on the interaction between built and social/ cultural structures: how do social relations and living conditions during post-war modernism impact on the building process and how does the built environment retroact on society?

In the course catalogue, the seminar is listed for the D-ARCH as well as for the D-GESS.

The seminar will be held in four blocks of 8h each (instead of a weekly class). In between of the individual sessions, the students will have to do research and analysis independantly/ in self-organized workgroups. Particular sociological expertise is not a requirement.

Modular building systems* have been extremely popular in the 20th century and continue to impact on architects‘ work today due to their proven innovation in rationalization and design principals.

With a high number and spread of serially produced buildings on one hand, and their importance for architectural and social history on the other hand, their current relevance is clear.

During the research seminar, we will be focussing on the critical/ popular reception of modular building systems at the time of their construction. Research will be organised in workgroups analyzing design, drawing, visualization, text and documentation. Based on a broad selection of empirical material we aim to shed light on the interaction between built and social/ cultural structures – the following questions will serve as our trajectories:
- how do social relations and living conditions impact on the building process and how does architecture impact on social interactions?
- which offers of interpretation can be found in text and visual materials of modular (technically normed) building systems?
- which understanding of society and which conception of man is being documented in modular building systems, which visions of society are being encouraged?
- how does the broad-based impetus towards individualization of post-war times relate to the introduction of technically normed modular building systems?

* Examples for Swiss modular buildings are the Betriebsanlagen of USM in Münsingen / System USM-MAXI by Fritz Haller or the settlement Sunnebüel in Volketswil / System by Göhner AG

Block I              21.09.18 / 15-19h and  22.09.18 / 11-17h
Block II            12.10.18 / 15-19h and 13.10.18 / 11-17h
Block III           16.11.18 / 15-19h and 17.11.18 / 11-17h
Block IV           07.12.18 / 15-19h and 08.12.18 / 11-17h


Course Catalogue

The seminar is part of the research work within the framework of the working group "System & Series" of ICOMOS Suisse (