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All images appear courtesy of Modscape.
There has been a recent surge in popularity for prefab construction, yet the technique still polarises the architecture and design community, carrying the stigma of a ‘quick-fix’ solution. We spoke with Jan Gyrn from Modscape about the shift in attitude towards modular solutions.
How do you believe that prefab can improve its image? Can it defy its critics in the process?
We have actually found that there is an increasing appreciation of prefab within the architecture and design community. The image has changed and will continue to change. New technologies, greater appreciation of the industry and greater understanding of the design possibilities makes building prefab more viable and more exciting than ever and is helping to shift attitudes and misconceptions that surround the traditional prefab image. Australia is following in the footsteps of Europe, North America and Asia.
Time-effective solutions and sustainability are two of the unquestionable positives about modular projects. What else do you deem the fundamental selling points of prefabrication?
At Modscape we build within a nine to 12 week period. This rapid construction forces us to have a very high level of documentation – which in turn means a higher degree of design resolution and greater control of the cost. The factory environment in which the modules are constructed ensures the risk of weather and site delays are eliminated, allowing for a fixed timeline for design, construction and delivery. It also enables us to oversee and achieve a consistent level of quality.
We understand you are currently working on a healthcare project on the Mornington Peninsula. Having already been involved in the Mitcham Private Hospital and Wantirna Health Education Precinct projects, can you give some insight into what you think the future of prefabrication is in health care?
Prefabrication has a solid future in the health care industry. The off-site construction of the modules means there is little disturbance to the running of the facility, although there are some challenges. Health care sector projects differ from other commercial projects as a higher level of technical coordination and communication is required. There are also other health specific items to take into consideration such as infection control.
With the current project, the modules have been installed but there is still onsite work being undertaken. The private hospital extension project consists of 27 modules that were installed over a two day period. The facility includes private patient rooms, a patient lounge and other office and staff amenities.
Is health care, in your opinion, the largest commercial area of opportunity and growth for prefab?
There are a number of commercial sectors where there is opportunity for the growth of prefab as the benefits extend in sectors such as education, transport, civic and institution. Less time spent on site means less disruption which, for institutions such as schools or hospitals, is imperative.
How did these projects come to your practice? Did they involve a long tender process?
Modscape frequently works collaboratively with other architects and external consultants on commercial projects. These projects are the result of a team approach to the development of design, construction and end use.
You have also built a number of residential properties using modular solutions. A key question about modular housing is in its design options being considered as ‘modest’, however Modscape offers flexibility in design options. Can you talk us through some of the customisation options you offer for residential projects?
Modscape’s designs are all bespoke. Each project is designed for the specific site, taking into consideration passive design principles and the clients requirements. With Modscape, no two homes are the same. We design in modules and they can be used to create almost any configuration of spaces. All of our modules are customised to suit each design, and the majority of our homes use a combination of module sizes – placing them side-by-side or end-to-end. They can also be stacked and can cantilever. Design and finish options are limitless, but every design is the result of genuine collaboration with each client.
Can you give a little insight into the challenges and highlights of your position at Modscape?
I established Modscape nine years ago. The key challenges have been shifting market perception by providing design-led solutions to a high level of finish, as well as managing the rapid growth of the company. Both of these challenges have also been highlights of the role.
Which of your projects have you been most proud of, and why?
It’s hard to select one project because every project is unique. We have had projects with remarkable sites, interesting briefs and challenging access constraints – it is often these limitations that lead to brilliant results. One of my favourite projects is Tintaldra. Situated on a vast property on the southern banks of the Murray River in Tintaldra, approximately 100 kilometres east of Albury, this unique home serves as an Australian base for a client living overseas. The design brief required a single-module cabin that was completely off-grid and easily maintained during long periods of unoccupancy throughout the year. We developed a cladding system to create a salvaged, shed-like exterior. When viewed from the road, the cabin recedes into the landscape by looking like any number of sheds in the area and appears as a small silhouette against the main range of the snowy mountains on the horizon. As a stark contrast, the interior floorplan is crisp white with clean lines and contemporary fittings and fixtures.
Where do you turn for inspiration, and which architects or designers have had the biggest influence on your work?
Scandinavian and Japanese architecture has inspired our designs but each project is designed on its own merit and inspired by the site.
What excites you about the current state of Australian architecture? What frustrates you?
What excites me about the current state of Australian architecture is the growing awareness surrounding sustainable and modular construction and design. This is also what frustrates me as it has taken a long time to grow and there are immense possibilities in constructing in this manner.
For more on prefab, pick up the latest copy of Architectural Review Asia Pacific (AR140 – Small Spaces) and join the discussion on Twitter (@ausdesignreview).
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