If you want to see a suburban house in Manhattan, you have to go to a
museum. On an asphalt parking lot behind a chain-link fence, the
Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibit Home Delivery presents five of
them, plus a sixth (of earlier vintage) in a gallery upstairs. Passing
New Yorkers glance with slightly bemused curiosity, as if the
structures were exotic animals in a zoo.
The exhibit, curated by Barry Bergdoll, brilliantly explores the now
curious-seeming 20th century notion that houses should be designed and
delivered like mass-produced, factory-fabricated and assembled
artefacts — automobiles, aircraft and tanks. This idea never met with
much success, but that didn’t stop many of the stars of 20th century
modernism from developing kits of parts for factory production and
designing “demonstration” prefabricated homes — most of which never
got beyond the rendering and model stage.