INTERNI. The Magazine of Interiors and Contemporary Design

The appointment is at 150 West 28th Street, in the Garment District, the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The Res4 architecture studio (its abbreviated nickname) is on the 18th floor of a tower from the late 1920s: from the ‘sculpted’ entrance hall in Gothic style one ascends into a surprising, luminous open space with breathtaking views on three completely glazed sides. This is where the new prefab architecture of Joseph Tanney and Robert Luntz gets designed: over 60 single-family houses that have won many prizes and honors, from coast to coast. And have made those who live in them very happy. Interni met with the New York-based duo for an interview.

YOU ARE KNOWN AS ‘PIONEERS’ OF THE NEW PREFABRICATION: WHEN AND HOW DID THIS IDEA GET STARTED?

We’ve been working on it for about ten years: considering the fact that we founded the studio in 1990, lets say the research on prefabrication began about halfway through our career. We had lots of experience in the design and restructuring of lofts and minimum spaces, especially in New York City. We learned to work inside small spaces, very similar in terms of layout, long and narrow; almost modules that had shared characteristics of space, form and light. From there, we began to create our Modern Modular Design System.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THAT?

The winning idea was to use construction modes that were already part of the legacy of American prefabrication, while updating the production methods in terms of quality and formal beauty.

ARE YOU SAYING THAT YOU MAKE INNOVATIVE PROJECTS USING ALREADY EXISTING METHODS?

Exactly. We have taken advantage of all the know-how of the American ‘modular’ industry (Modern Modular), which calls for the production of the various pieces of the building in the factory, and their transport and assembly at the site. The idea is to operate inside the construction standards of traditional prefab, within the limits imposed by the industry, but surprisingly we are able to make ‘custom’ homes in this way for clients. While totally safeguarding the price-quality relationship.

HOW CAN YOU MANAGE TO DO THAT?

We think in a systematic way: from the structure of the house and its proportions to the location of the doors and windows, the choice of materials and even colors, the process is always very methodical. Based on the individual needs of the clients, in fact, we can create ‘their’ house in a systematic way. We start with the design of ideal volumes, which we call ‘modules of use,’ complying with the constructive standards of the assembly line in the factory, and then we combine them, as if they were ‘conceptual building blocks.’ The number of volumetric combinations (on multiple levels) and combinations of surfaces (different sizes) is unlimited, so the clients can undoubtedly find their ideal home. With one very big advantage…

WHICH IS?

To have a house in just 16 months, from the moment of contact with us to the moment of moving in. The concept is that you can live in a quality house even if it costs less and is produced in record time. Respecting principles of sustainability, without sacrificing high energy performance and durability. Just think, one of our latest projects, a villa built on the sand dunes of Long Island (on this page, ed.), stood up to the force of Hurricane Sandy. The neighboring houses didn’t fare so well…

SO SUCCESS IS GUARANTEED?

I’d say so. Also thanks to a network of partner companies we have developed in the territory. Today, especially in the Northeast, we can count on small-medium industrial firms that are open to this type of collaboration, welcoming the figure of the architect inside the factory. It hasn’t been easy.

AFTER ALL, THE NAME OF YOUR STUDIO IS RESOLUTION: 4.ARCHITECTURE…

Of course: we work to resolve complex questions regarding the dimension of contemporary living.

 

Laura Ragazzola – photos by Laurie Lambrecht, courtesy of RES4

 

 

 
The compositional scheme of the ‘Modern Modular’ prefabrication system for residential building, invented by the American duo.
 
The studio of Joseph Tanney and Robert Luntz in New York.
 
One step of work on the prefab module for a house, on the factory production line.
 
One step of work on the prefab module for a house, on the factory production line.
 
Bronx Box “was the first example of Modern Modular in New York,” Joseph Tanney, one of the two partners of Res4, told us. “The building on a long narrow lot is in the Bronx, in an urban situation of great diversity, and the owner is a veteran of the war in Iraq.”
 
The first floor contains a luminous open space with the kitchen, the dining room and the living area.
 
The first floor – access is regulated by a staircase.
 
Dune Road Beach House is “a vacation home facing the ocean in Hampstead, Long Island, three hours from New York City,” Robert Lunz explains. A roof terrace (6) boosts livability, with a breathtaking view of the ocean.
 
The living area, with a very bright living zone.
 
The living area, with a large kitchen and a very bright living zone, is on the first level, while the second is set aside for three bedrooms with baths.
 
The building, composed of four modules (see the diagram to the side) on two levels, as a linear layout that matches the landscape: a very long beach facing the ocean on one side and the bay on the other.
 
The space then extends outward, almost into the water, with a large terrace offering direct access to the pier.