Saturday, October 22, 2011


I thought I would take a break from the usual to share some things about our home. This summer my wife and I bought our first house! It's a quirky modern house halfway into the woods, a short walk to the college. We both loved it immediately. It has these great big floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at birch trees and fields beyond. But we were also intrigued by the house's slightly mysterious history. The previous owner was the eccentric widow of the chair of the art department. When we first saw the place it was full of art -- African masks and statues, Japanese paintings, Eames and Noguchi furniture, crazy optic wallpaper, etc. I remember saying to each other that it looked like the home of some crazy 1970s art teacher lady. We were sold!

Friends of the previous owners told us the house was a prefab built by grad students from either Harvard or MIT. We did a little research but couldn't find anything. Then last week a friend found a photo on a blog of a house that looked exactly like ours. A few clicks of the mouse later and we discovered that our house is a Techbuilt prefab designed by an architect named Carl Koch. Apparently Techbuilts were among the most popular of early prefabs on the east coast in the 50s and 60s. Koch's idea was to cut costs by building homes out of exchangeable 4 X 8 panels factory made and shipped to the building site, where they could be erected in a few days. The panels could be arranged in a number of configurations, but all Techbuilt houses have the same pitched roofs, exposed beams, split-level construction, large overhangs, etc. There's actually another house just down the street from us that we suspect is another Techbuilt.

Koch was an interesting figure from what we can gather. We checked out one of his books, At Home With Tomorrow, where he makes some slightly ponderous claims about what women want in life and in houses. Some of these photos are from that book, or from promo materials for Techbuilt. I love the one of the wall being assembled below. It looks just like our house! Koch seems to have been a shrewd marketer as well as an architect. The way many east coasters found out about Techbuilt was through a 1954 Ford Foundation-sponsored TV program called "Excursion," which did a lengthy feature on Techbuilt narrated by Burgess Meredith. I would love to see that show.

Anyway here are some views of our house, taken in August before we moved in. I can post more if anybody's interested. Photos of my records?


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