Monday, October 13, 2008

Pre-PreFab, or the Modness of Tommy Edison

Thomas Edison is a rock star. Literally: the man created incandescent light. Voices can boom and resonate thanks to the microphone. Global financial markets expand and contract on his tickers. The man held 1,093 patents (true, his factory sucked fresh ideas out of young idealists, but still).

I was unaware until recently of one of Edison's most prescient ideas--in 1906 he conceived of one of the first mass-produced domicile solutions. The dream of affordable housing, according to Edison, could be made manifest in concrete molded residences.

"His system involved the use of elaborate forms and machinery for pouring a one, two, or even three-story house in a single operation, and offered concrete built-ins such as a bathtub. Sectional cast iron forms bolted together were to be assembled on the foundation walls to the height of the house, ending in a centrally located funnel into which the concrete was poured."

The first single-pour concrete house was built on Hixon Street in South Orange, New Jersey (I guess J gets a little more love). Turns out that the cast iron mold for the house was ungainly and unwieldy, so only 11 were ever built.


Anonymous said...

Hey Vanessa,

I suppose I could just tell you this, as opposed to posting it, but I think the later work of Ernest Flagg would interest you. Aside from building the only tallest building in the world to ever be intentionally razed and having built the most attractive fire station in NYC (on Great Jones St. I believe), He became obsessed with a similar idea later in his career, except that (as an architect) he was more concerned with balancing affordability and aesthetics. Therefore, although he built many homes of poured concrete, he inlayed them with vertically oriented lanenstone: a sort of macro-mosaic.

Let's discuss!


sarah said...

Thomas Edison held public electrocutions of dogs and, once, a circus elephant driven to violence towards her handlers. Man knew how to rock a spectacle, I suppose.