Jennifer Siegal – Nominees arcVision Prize 2016

Jennifer Siegal (Usa)

Naming her studio the Office of Mobile Design (founded in 1998) was for Jennifer Siegal a direct consequence of her great interest in “transitional” spaces.

Jennifer Siegal (Usa)In fact, her work focuses on the design of mobile, removable, and re-positionable structures, based on her research into a new type of prefabrication that uses industrial processes to create more efficient and agile buildings, which in some cases involve the use of wheels as an element to make the architecture more user-friendly and literally dynamic. Siegal has confronted herself with these aspects both through public educational spaces and through working with the theme of habitation, with the Saetrain Residence (2003) in Los Angeles, for example, which creates a dynamic living space starting with the use of simple standard containers.


“Innovation and unconventional thinking are both hardwired into my DNA. This shows in my body of work and research that questions everything, particularly the static, heavy, inflexible architecture that we somehow still expect in a world that is anything but. In 1998 I named my firm Office of Mobile Design, a nod to my obsession with the transitory. The firm focuses on portable, demountable, and relocatable structures, from homes to schools to stores. It also explores prefabrication, taking advantage of industrial processes to create a more efficient and nimble architecture.
Wheels are an important part of OMD’s design approach, examining ways that any city environment can be made more usable and more dynamic if it can be hitched-up, towed, pulled, or driven from place to place. For me, mobility is not about erasing everything that exists, but adding to the infrastructure in a more environmentally sound way — a more intelligent way of inhabiting the landscape — resting lightly on the ground. My firm has developed a reputation not only for hands-on research, but for rethinking already radical ideas. My architecture is not just a “nod to the fantastical past,” like the visionary ideas of Archigram, the Metabolists and Ant Farm. The utilization of the existing industrial vernacular to create the new is a key element in OMD’s work.”



Location: Hollywood, California, USA
Project Type: Adaptive Reuse and Material Up-Cycling
Use of the Building: Inner-city Mobile Classroom for life of a tree
Construction Period: January 1998 – June 1998
Awards: National AIA Honorable Mention; Collaborative Practice Award; Westside Prize

The Mobile ECO LAB was built in collaboration with the Hollywood Beautification Team, a grassroots group founded with the mission to restore beauty and integrity to the Hollywood community. Verbal and visual exchanges took place using digital drawings, traditional architectural drafting, and large-scale modeling techniques. Full-scale work was performed with a defined material palette (specifically that of a donated cargo trailer and cast-offs from film sets). The 8’ x 35’ truck trailer travels throughout Los Angeles County to inform K-12 school-aged children about the importance of saving and protecting our planet. As a working mobile classroom, the Mobile ECO LAB provides a base for a range of exhibitions focusing on ecology. A multimedia program explaining the “life of a tree” creates a path for discovery that weaves in and out of the expandable Mobile ECO LAB. This is a working art studio, where local artists collaborate with the children to create facade-sized murals replacing graffiti at inner-city schools. Local L.A. teachers use the stage-like platforms to discuss each child’s role in the importance of planting trees and maintaining a sustainable environment. Like a circus tent, this mobile icon arrives at the schoolyard where elevated walkways fold down and slide out of the truck trailer’s body. It is immediately recognizable as a place for interaction, discovery and fun.


Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Project Type: Adaptive Reuse of 4 Shipping Containers and 2 Grain Trailers. Collaboration with local LA artists
Use of the Building: Residence and Urban Garden
Construction Period: August 2002 – June 2003
Awards: ACSA Faculty Design Award

The idea of building a house out of shipping containers is becoming familiar, though few designs manage it this elegantly and comfortably, especially for such an unexpected location. The residence is on a formally empty industrial lot in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood, on the edge of downtown and adjacent to the large arts cooperative called the Brewery. The construction team dug up existing concrete slabs and replaced them with a thick, wild combination of plants, which grow especially well since the site is on the original alluvial plain of the now asphalt-covered L.A. River. Siegal, a former Brewery resident, calls the site the “enchanted garden” for its dense plantings and seclusion from the street. The house is composed of four corrugated steel shipping containers, which, like their uneven site, had been sitting abandoned in the area. The containers sit on top of each other in twos, separated by a living space roofed with a steel surface that tilts with a change in grade between the house’s two sides. They are fronted by a facade of thick glass sheets that are abutted to create the illusion of a continuous glass wall. This eclectic middle space is the heart of the project. The room’s floor alternates between concrete and dark cherry wood, and is enlivened by a succession of changes in levels and an indoor koi pond fed by a waterfall made of stacked flagstone. Up-cycled from aluminum grain trailers, the sunken outdoor trailer becomes a lap pool. The four multipurpose containers house equally adaptable bedroom/bathroom, entertainment room/library, dining room/study, and laundry/mechanical spaces.


Location: Taliesin- Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Project Type: Design/Build Architecture Studio I SIP Construction
Use of the Building: Residence for Visiting Scholars
Construction Period: September 2007 – January 2009
Awards: Sunset Magazine-AIA Western Green Home Award

Over 100 years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright launched a pioneering scheme to build prefabricated homes with pre-cut framing, cabinets and other factory-made parts. Based on building practices he’d seen in Japan, Wright called it the American System of Housing. World War I intruded, and he built only a handful. Honoring Wright’s legacy while tackling important design issues of today, the Taliesin Mod.Fab is an example of simple, elegant, and sustainable living in the desert. The one-bedroom, 600-square-foot prototype residence relies on SIP (structural insulated panel) construction to allow for speed and economy on site or in a factory. It can be connected to utilities or be “unplugged,” relying on low-consumption fixtures, rainwater harvesting, greywater re-use, natural ventilation, solar orientation, and photovoltaics to reduce energy and water use. The structure is dimensioned and engineered to be transportable via roadway. The building sits cantilevered over the desert wash and is used as a guesthouse for visiting scholars. The Taliesin Mod.Fab was designed and built by graduate and undergraduate students at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture with faculty guidance and an emphasis on prefabricated construction by Jennifer Siegal. The structure can be visited on the student-led Taliesin West Desert Shelter Tour.


Location: Mobile- Venice and Joshua Tree, California, USA
Project Type: Factory Built Steel Modular Construction
Use of the Building: Prototype for OMD’s work and Off-the-Grid Residence
Construction Period: January 2006 – June 2006

The OMD Prefab ShowHouse exhibits the ideas of prefabrication, flexibility, portability and compact spaciousness. Originally located at the heart of Venice’s trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the building served as a showroom to display OMD’s newest work and as a prototypical model home for inquisitive clients. Green and modern, the Showhouse demonstrates OMD’s commitment to merging responsible design with new technologies and custom details. The central kitchen/bath core divides and separates the sleeping space from the eating/living space in a compact assemblage of form and function. The modular steel frame building measures 12’ x 60’ (720 sq ft) and features a high sloping 12’- 6” ceiling with an operable skylight to allow for passive air circulation. The factory-built design utilizes green technologies such as a tankless water heater, radiant heat ceiling panels and translucent polycarbonate sheets, balanced with high-end amenities like the iPort integrated sound system, Boffi kitchen, and Duravit bathroom fixtures. The Showhouse offers a space to see the functionality of these elements first hand, as well as applications of materials such as Kirei board, amber vertical strand bamboo, and coconut palm flooring. Whether briefly situated in an urban lot, momentarily located in the open landscape, or positioned for a more lengthy stay, the ShowHouse accommodates a wide range of needs and functions. Relocated to the high desert of Joshua Tree national park in 2010, the building now nestles in 80 acres of arid off-the-grid wilderness.


Manhattan, NY (USA), December 11, 1965 Jennifer Siegal is known for her work in creating the mobile home of the twentieth century. She is founder and principal of the Los Angeles-based firm Office of Mobile Design (OMD), which is dedicated to the design and construction of ecologically sound, dynamic structures, utilizing portable and prefabricated architecture. She earned a master’s degree from SCI-Arc in 1994 and was a 2003 Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she explored the use of intelligent, kinetic, and lightweight materials. In 1997 she was in-residence at the Chinati Foundation and in 2004 a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony in her hometown, Peterborough, New Hampshire. She was the inaugural Julius Shulman Institute Fellow at Woodbury University, and is presently an Adjunct Associate Professor at USC. She is the editor of both Mobile: the Art of Portable Architecture (2002), More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today (2008), and was the founder and series editor of Materials Monthly (2005-6), published by Princeton Architectural Press. A monograph on Jennifer Siegal was published in 2005.

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