Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wes Jones and Peter Pfau's Primitive Hut

Wes Jones’ preoccupation and fascination with shipping containers dates back to the 1980s. His interest in the utilization of this resource is a response to the number of unused shipping containers available worldwide. Wes saw the unique potential for them to be used as elements for refurbished homes. These ready- made durable blocks could be modified, dissected and added to depending on the client's particular needs and requirements. These additions may include ramps, shades, photovoltaic panels, HVAC systems, furniture, porches, pools and struts —becoming a collage-like exercise in an attempt to customize an otherwise standard and impersonal container. 

Wes’ earliest proposal was the Hesselink Guest House —also known as the “Container House”. In this project he showcased his unique drawing style, using exploded axonometric drawings to depict the building as a kit or assemblage of parts. From this initial project, Jones continued to expand on the idea of shipping container structures. Within 4 years he produced a series of proposals known as ‘Primitive Huts’. These huts were built as models and were a direct reference to Marc- Antoine Laugier’s 'Essay on Architecture'. Laugier’s essay argues that architecture must derive all its forms from basic requirements of structural stability. This concept is embraced by Wes Jones and Peter Pfau’s ‘Primitive Huts’. Jones’s proposal, communicated through the huts, is an architecture for the hunter-gatherer, for someone who seeks to scavenge materials and to subsequently recycle them without the support of market infrastructure for their livelihood. Jones continues this type of work today as he has developed a series of container based homes referred to as PRO/con (program/container).

Bergdoll, Barry, Peter Christensen, and Ron Broadhurst. Home delivery: fabricating the modern dwelling. New York: Museum of Modern Art :, 2008

The Purpose: 

The concept of the origin, especially the origin of architecture, is fundamentally flawed in nature- and the search for said origin is often futile. Peter Pfau and Wes Jones acknowledged this truth, but chose to delve into their search regardless. It is in this exploration of the idea of an architectural origin in which the Primitive Huts and their purpose were conceptualized. 

The Primitive Huts have a dual purpose: 
  1. To elevate the machine and its role as a dwelling to the status of architecture 
  2. To subvert architecture and urban form in their project

Through these fundamental goals, Pfau and Jones set out to question the validity of the origins of architecture present in the form of the primitive hut, while simultaneously exploring its relationships to the machine and the spacial structure of suburbia. They chose to challenge suburbia, without attacking it. The interpretation of the ambiguous origin of architecture lead them to rather revitalize and improve the concept of building in suburbia. This process was referred to as “souping up”, an upgrade to the body of suburbia, with obvious reference to the “souping up” of hot-rods in the automobile industry. Pfau and Jones looked to add meaning and expression of the individual to the mass produced, repetitive housing in modern suburban settings. 

Ostwald, Michael, and John Moore. "AA - Adam's House in Cyberbia-." Architecture Media . (accessed November 8, 2012).


The shipping containers used in the construction of the primitive huts may be used similarly to lego blocks, as they can easily stack to form more complex and versatile compositions. They are essentially economical steel and aluminum building blocks. The shipping container is extremely versatile as it may be used for both permanent and impermanent dwellings, while providing ease of transportation.Because shipping containers were designed to withstand extreme weather conditions during travel, they are watertight and built to resist hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes, therefore they are not only inexpensive, but also exceedingly durable. 

The construction of the Primitive Huts consists of standard cube shipping containers. The containers were then customized and improved upon with the addition of a series of elements. Logs, twigs, I-beams, glass and aluminum were added to perform the supporting functions of the structure.The Huts were then customized through the dissection, modification and additions which were particular to the clients needs. Some of these additions include: ramps, shades, photovoltaic panels, HVAC systems, porches, pools and struts. The Primitive Huts were part ready-made , part customized collage. Jones' distinctive drawing style with annotations and exploded axonometrics conveying the house as a kit, portrayed his view of the construction as an assemblage of parts. 

Arieff, Allison, and Bryan Burkhart. Prefab. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2002.
Bergdoll, Barry, Peter Christensen, and Ron Broadhurst. Home delivery: fabricating the modern dwelling. New York: Museum of Modern Art :, 2008.

“The descent of post-war optimism to outright nihilism ends with ones of Wes Jones’s militaristic Primitive Huts (1994-8). A rigid steel fame on which mechanical shutters are mounted, the hut is covered by a pitched roof made of uneven wooden logs.

The heavy shutters look like protective shields; it could be the ideal hideaway for a recluse, Unabomber style, suggesting American individualism taken to its darkest extreme”

Ouroussoff, Nicolai. " Home Delivery’ - At MoMA, a Look at Instant Houses, Past, Present and Future ." The New York Times . (accessed November 5, 2012).

1 comment:

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