Centre for Culture and Community - Adaptable Modular Building Prototype

For a complex research project - the prototyping of a Centre for Culture and Community - noa* questions what form modular flexibility takes and how nature can be embedded in the project.

About noa*

ProjectCentre for Culture and Community

CeCuCo, Centre for Culture and Community, is a research project with an ambitious task: the design of a cultural centre without a fixed context, capable of transforming itself to adapt to anyone and anywhere. This is noa*'s vision of a multifunctional space, translated into a sustainable model which is versatile for all situations. Among the infinite design possibilities, it was clear from the very beginning which direction to take: to design an architecture that is not indifferent to what happens inside it, a flexible space in which the community can decide, act and makes her moves.

Learning from tangram

The geometry of the project is based on an elementary form, the triangle, repeated modularly in both plan and elevation. In the first case, the triangular module is inscribed in a 3x3 m square, in the second in 3x1.5 m. Working with geometries easy to assemble allows the cultural centre to expand or contract according to the needs of the context. In addition, on an urban planning level, the triangles can combine in many types of shapes, resulting in different space typologies like the slab, the courtyard or the punctiform village.

Using the module in the facade opens up to a variety of configurations, creating a kind of facade metamorphosis. noa* imagines the elevations as a chessboard: some elements can be moved, with certain rules and in certain directions, which it is then up to the people who experience the architecture to control. Doors can be moved, fanned out, turned on their hinges, lowered, raised, ajar... and the same goes for windows. A wide range of possibilities for an intuitive and playful architecture, made up of moves and countermoves, where the game of action and reaction between community and building gives life to the most diverse scenarios.

Players on playground

When defining the functional programme, noa* first investigated the needs of a cultural and community centre as well as the ways to create an architecture as inclusive as possible. How do you design a space that works in the same way for children who meet to play, adults to watch an exhibition, teenagers to listen to a concert? What are the characteristics of a meeting space that is open all year round, that is not for consumption and that represents the public counterbalance to the private domestic dimension?

The natural answer to these questions was the decision to define different spaces capable of satisfying multiple needs, rather than specifying a fixed list of functions. Through 6 types of floor plans, ranging from 8 to 115 m2, all the possible activities of the centre are accommodated. For example, the small module houses the artist's atelier, the newspaper stall, the storeroom, the management office, the staircase, and the changing rooms. In the extra small module, you can find a ticket office. In the medium module, the toilets, a library room, and the open-air bleachers, since not all modules stand for covered spaces. As the floor plans change to the larger size, the possibilities vary, culminating in the large space, with 115 m2 available, designed for theatre and cinema.

Think local, be sustainable

noa* wanted an architecture that is social in its final purpose, and sustainable in all the aspects of the design, including the choice of materials and construction techniques. For this prototype were chosen natural materials and an exposed construction system, easy to assemble and dismantle. In the “standard package”, the facade is made up of an exposed wooden structural system and a wall of clay bricks, alternating with transparent parts, which have also been modulated on the geometry of the triangle. The sustainable approach must be central in the design: therefore, the final choice of materials must be verified with the project environment, to check their actual availability on-site, their thermal conductivity in relation to the climatic conditions, the energy consumption in their processing and the presence of the necessary know-how skills. Similarly, a careful design of the installations can have a positive impact on the ecological footprint of the building. The cultural centre includes the use of green roofs and pergolas, photovoltaic systems, rainwater collecting systems, cross-ventilation systems as well as ponds and wooded areas for a temperate microclimate.

With this project, noa* envisages a flexible architecture, capable of reacting to changes in context and at the same time of working on different scales, from the macro-project to the street furniture. This cultural centre could be located on a beach on a volcanic island, in the Scandinavian forests, on an abandoned lot in Detroit or on the roofs of socialist housing in Berlin. It is an architecture able to mould itself to the morphological and climatic requirements of the context while maintaining intact the concept of sociality and interaction between the building and those who live in it.

VoloPort Concept - Modular eVTOL Vertiport - Departure and Arrival Facility for Air Taxis and Drones

About Graft

Project partnersGeorg Schmidthals, Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz, Thomas Willemeit
Project leadSebastian Massmann
Design leadMarta Piaseczynska
Project teamJulia Korpacka, Tatiana Lebedeva
Year2021: Commission for VoloPort together with Arup and Bayards Aluminium Constructies
2019: First prototype built in Singapore by GRAFT Brandlab
2018: Competition, 1st prize, together with GRAFT Brandlab and Arup

Description by designers

The German eVTOL design company Volocopter is a pioneer of Urban Air Mobility and develops fully electric vertical take-off aircraft as a mobility solution for use in urban areas. As a hub for the Volocopter aircraft, the VoloPort vertiport was devised by GRAFT in collaboration with Volocopter, Arup and Bayards Aluminium Constructies.

The VoloPort is part of the Volocopter modular urban air mobility infrastructure network and acts as a gateway within the public realm. Suited to the constraints of densely populated areas, its compact, modular and expandable design can be employed in a variety of inner-city locations – either on the ground, on the roof of a high-rise building or on a floating, water-based platform.

Stack Modular Housing - Prefab Affordable Housing, Manhattan, New York

Floor plans / Drawings
Construction Process
Location and contact info
About GLUCK+

ProjectThe Stack Modular Housing
Design TeamShannon Bambenek, Jacob Chartoff, Marc Gee, Peter L. Gluck, Thomas Gluck, Charlie Kaplan, James Macgillivray, Brian Novello, Silan Yip
Area37,710 square feet
Structural EngineersSilman (Foundations), The Harman Group (Modular)
Geotechnical EngineersPillori Associates
Mechanical EngineerRodkin Cardinale Consulting Engineers
Prefabrication ConsultantDeluxe Building Systems Inc.
LocationManhattan, New York, USA
PhotographyAmy Barkow

Utilizing an off-site construction method and an innovative design strategy, The Stack modular housing has managed to streamline the entire development process and create a high-quality product with a small carbon footprint, pioneering the future of construction in New York City.

Individual modules are constructed and fully finished in a factory setting, while the eventual building site is simultaneously prepped for their arrival. Expending far fewer raw materials than traditional construction methods, the modules are fabricated in a highly controlled environment, allowing for quality assurance and precise engineering.

Once transported and on-site, the modules are literally stacked—the inspiration behind the building's name—and seamlessly integrated into a singular structure, an aesthetically pleasing building that enhances both the streetscape and the pedestrian experience. In the final stage, an expressive façade is fixed to the modular framework, making a strong visual statement to passersby that reflects the building's unique means to existence.

The modular construction method rapidly accelerates the production schedule, completing buildings in virtually half the time of the traditional on-site process, while also opening a new realm of opportunity for urban development. With its distinctive architecture and luxurious yet accessible lifestyle offering, The Stack modular housing serves as a proud example of the possibilities enabled by modular construction, and is a welcome addition to the Inwood community.

The Monetary and Non-Monetary Impacts of Prefabrication on Construction: The Effects of Product Modularity

Krishna Chauhan1, Antti Peltokorpi1, Rita Lavikka2 and Olli Seppänen1

1Department of Civil Engineering, Aalto University, 02150 Espoo, Finland

 2VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, 02044 Espoo, Finland

1. Introduction
2. Theoretical Background
3. Method
4. Analysis and Results
5. Discussion
6. Conclusions


Prefabrication is rapidly increasing in construction, and previous research has identified various impacts of prefabrication on projects. Modular product architecture is a great enabler for prefabrication; however, practitioners would benefit from more explicit knowledge on the impacts of prefabricated product types with different levels of product modularity. This study investigates the connection between the modularity level and the monetary and non-monetary impacts of prefabricated products. First, the literature on prefabrication and modularity is used to form three propositions which are related to product modularity and the benefits of prefabrication. The level of modularity is considered with two dimensions: the proportion of modules and the module description detail. Second, four prefabricated products are analyzed to test the propositions. The analysis revealed that (1) the level of modularity adopted in the product is directly proportional to the benefits. More specifically, (2) a higher proportion of modules in a project product contributes to higher cost-benefits. On the other hand, (3) prefabricated products with highly detailed module descriptions seem to lead to higher non-monetary benefits, such as better ergonomics and work satisfaction. The study reveals new empirical evidence on the relationship between product modularity and the benefits of prefabricated products. Cost-benefit analysis revealed that even though some prefabricated products could have higher direct costs, the total cost can still be lower than conventional construction when also considering the indirect benefits. Practitioners can utilize the findings when selecting modular and prefabricated products that best fulfil their project objectives.

First LEED Silver Certified Prefab Modular Home in Colorado, Denver

Floor plans
Manufacturing in factory
On-site Assembly
About Tomecek Studio

LEED Certified, LEED-Home Pilot Program
2008 Builder Magazine Grand Award
AIA Colorado Citation Award
AIA Colorado North Chapter Merit Award
AIA Colorado YAAG Built Architecture Award

Project32nd Modular
ArchitectsTomecek Studio
Area2,750 square feet
Manufacturing time (80% completed in factory)3 weeks
Assembly time4,5 hours
Project completion time4,5 month
LocationDenver, Colorado

When Brad Tomecek and his family outgrew their Denver loft and decided to swap it for a single-family home, the architect took the opportunity to experiment with an alternative building technique.

He purchased a narrow 25-foot-by-125-foot infill lot within walking distance to downtown, and, along with his colleagues at Studio H:T, designed a 2,750-square-foot modular house to be built in a factory. “It was an experiment to bring modern green design through the prefab process,” says Tomacek. “It saves time and reduces material waste to just 5 percent.”

The first LEED Silver–certified modular house in the state, it has a poured-in-place foundation with two boxes stacked above. “Because the site borders a commercial area, the zoning let us go a little higher than usual,” Tomacek explains. “That allowed for three stories including a basement.” Sliding the top box back a few feet created an upper southern deck and a covered rear entry area.

The project took just four-and-a-half months from start to finish. “We went from a foundation to a full frame structure in about five hours,” says Tomecek. “It was a good experience, and now we have another tool in our toolbox.”