Are architecture and prefabrication incompatible?
That is not it! Precast construction does not prevent customization. Once again, the options are in cooperation between architects and civil engineers. If they worked better together, they could make beautiful buildings out of parametric models. Examples of this exist, perfected for sustainability, land sealing, and fast and high-quality construction. There are some outstanding projects where people work together. The civil engineer says: “These are my limits”, and the architect proves their competence by designing a great building based on those. Looking at the Central European building market, however, architects define themselves by great forms and just say: “I do not care as long as I win the tender. Building it is your problem.” That makes things a bit harder. This is why I also like to view architectural freedom in the context of cooperation, with the modular system, to build more sustainably and efficiently.
I can see two aspects here. It is fine to talk about architectural freedom, but affordable housing requires us to go in a different direction, following where the automotive industry is already leading. A configurator and a limited choice of components can reduce costs. Every family home and every request is drawn anew today, making the process overly expensive and complex. I suggest using standardized components and modules to reduce costs and improve efficiency. I believe that this will be the future of the precast market and that modular precast components will be used more instead of allowing complete architectural freedom.
I don’t think that we need to rely on precast parts only. There can be a hybrid approach, where we can make a load-bearing structure and façades of precast elements, while still leaving architectural freedom for special building elements untouched. Automation also allows a high degree of customization of living space. Outlets or kitchen spaces can be placed perfectly flexibly without any extra effort. 15 to 20 years ago, a social housing example in Vienna was created that was visually appealing and had standardized and industrialized optimizations. Buyers were still able to pick their interior designs. The key is to focus on which parts can be parametrized and which ones cannot, to keep costs under control. Once 3D printing improves some more, we will be able to make even more beautiful parts. I don’t want to rule out that we are going to print, I don’t know, bathroom fittings in some 3D shape that is not just square in the future. This kind of thing is technically possible already, it just does not look all that pretty yet.