Modular Construction in Architecture: The Future of Flexible Design

UNStudio

As we meander through these ‘unprecedented times’, the concept of impermanence has never been more pervasive in many of our lives. In the midst of a pandemic, and eventually a post-pandemic society, the demand for architecture and design to facilitate our changing needs is clearer than ever.

The home, for example, has recently had to take on many more roles, at times becoming a hospital, gym, office, recreation space, concert hall, isolation tank, and much more. This has led many to believe that such structures should be designed and constructed to allow for adaptation, in order for them to be able to support the changing lifestyles and habits of those housed within them. Designing and constructing structures with the user as an evolving entity with changing needs in mind is a core value of modular architecture.

Modular architecture is basically separate elements of a building that are prefabricated in isolation, then combined with other modules to create a unit. Modularity can tackle the shortcomings of traditional structures and provide users with flexibility, adaptable interfaces, standardized repair, durability and personalization, whilst also being sustainable and resilient to the effects of time.

Philosophy, art, literature, society, and architecture have always been influenced by the theory of impermanence. Much like Heraclitus wrote in his Fragments, many cultures have strong connotations associated with change as “the only constant”. In Eastern philosophy, Buddhism identifies three tenets that explain all phenomena: change, dissatisfaction, and impermanence. Architecture reflects the impermanence of our surroundings, with buildings acting as markers of the passing of time.

As such, construction and demolition can have a strong impact on the inhabitants of a place and can signify prominent cultural change. Throughout history, architectural innovation has been most notable after significant periods of upheaval. In the period after WWII, Japanese Metabolist designers created a new style of architecture based on organic growth, which included prefabricated modules that could be added to a central structure in order to expand it.

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Text written by Selma Larsson.