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Curbed LA Interviews: Siegal Speaks

The second in our semi-regular series of interviews with the architects, planners and thinkers who are shaping the future of Los Angeles. Today, on this most holy of days, we atone for McMansions, unsustainable development, and overpriced real estate with an interview with Jennifer Siegal of the Office of Mobile Design, known for its innovative green prefab design.

Let’s begin with pre-fab first. What is the typical cost of an OMD pre-fab home? How long does it take to construct? What is the ratio of land costs to labor and materials cost today?

Most of the homes we are designing are customized for the client and the specific site. The homes are California manufactured steel dwellings and offer cutting edge sustainable material surfaces. We can put these 'mods' together to form any size house: 1 or 2 stories; choice of interior and
exterior finishes; wired for security, sound and internet; all kitchen, bath, appliances; fireplaces; and as many 'green' and 'sustainable' materials as you like. The homes we are currently designing range from 800-5000 sq ft. The locations range from the city of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Manhattan Beach, Venice, Joshua Tree, and Desert Hot Springs. A few of these are open for public viewing. Please find our mini-portfolio at - just go to architecture, then in the news section at the bottom of the page you’ll see the download for mini-portfolio.

In addition to these custom homes, we also offer our modern Take Home. The four innovative design styles allow clients to customize their homes at an affordable price. They tend to range from $210 to $270 per square foot, so they’re an excellent option when compared with custom architecture. You’ll see examples of homes built from combined modules in the mini-portfolio above. Typical on-site, “stick-built,” or wood-framed custom home-building with similar architectural quality wouldn’t have the advantages below.

Benefits of OMD Prefab occur up-front and over time:
1. Neighbor-friendly construction - mitigates all the hammering and sawing that usually must occur on-site.
2. Increased level of design for the dollar.
3. Provides expedited availability or move-in date or reduced/expedited timeframe for construction loan terms.
4. Long term performance, in terms of building sustainability, maintenance, and utilities usage.
5. Exceeding seismic requirements, their steel moment frame offers very safe, long-lasting living/working environments.
6. Increased level of ‘known’ factors can be helpful in financing acquisition and budget maintenance.
7. Extreme sustainability throughout many aspects, especially avoidance of on-site construction waste, (as much as 30% of your materials can go into the dumpster).
8. Their interior spaces provide more volume than many traditional or existing spaces, and work well for both residential or professional/commercial functions, appealing to a more open-plan sensibility.
9. Increased level of quality, safety and efficiency for the construction management.

After the jump, we promise it gets sexier. What are the advantages of a pre-fab home in Los Angeles?

OMD Prefab in LA is modern - faster, greener, cheaper, neighbor and community friendly.Help us understand the design process. Are design ideas influenced as new materials become available? (If so, please give an example). And how do architects discover the new materials they can work with?I am the Series Editor of Materials Monthly™, published by Princeton Architectural Press. It is a subscription-based publication providing hands-on access to state of the art materials and allowing designers to easily build a library that expands and supports their work. Designed as a system for shelving and cataloging, Materials Monthly™ regularly brings you a sampling of new and innovative material samples and product sheets that include graphics, material descriptions and technical and performance specifications; the manufacturing process; design applications and examples; and product history and sourcing options. At Office of Mobile Design, we use this material research to introduce our clients to alternative materials and better green building options. We then fold this research into our building process.

How long have you been in LA and what brought you here? What makes LA an exciting city in which to practice architecture?I moved here in 1990 to study architecture at the original SCI-Arc in Santa Monica.
I love LA for its diversity: cultural, economic and environmental.
There is a constant exchange of new ideas, a need to express the individual and a diversity of taste cultures – this makes for an outstanding pool of talented and visionary clients, which I am most fortunate to have.Dream house: beach or hills?My landscapes of preference are the desert and the beach. I have different houses, all of them dreamscapes located in: Venice, Maui, Desert Hot Springs, and Baja.Which do you predict will happen first in LA: more race riots or catastrophic earthquake? A follow-up question: Why can’t urban planners and architects just get along?It feels like earthquake season to me.
Architecture should be a democratic act, not a dictatorship. Does society need urban planners?Most underappreciated neighborhood and why?Lincoln Heights.
It has proximity to incredibly interesting regions of LA - an Olmstead park, cheap burritos, art colonies, the LA river, older housing stock and fixer-uppers, the only winery in town, and raw land.Favorite building or landmark in LA? Why?The binoculars at the old Chiat/Day building on Main Street in Venice: the collaboration between Frank Gehry and Claus Oldenburg is perfect. I once heard Frank Gehry say that the only thing that separated the art from architecture, in this case, was a bathroom and a window.Favorite public space in LA – park, farmer’s market, mall, beach, whatever?I appreciate and am often amazed by the rollerblading path from Venice up to the Palisades. It begins as an insane carnival and culminates in pure calm emptiness. It always reminds me of how lucky I am to be living and working in Venice, CA.If you could choose any architect, living or dead, to design your dream house, who would it be and why? And no, you cannot choose yourself.I would create a compound of houses, and put them in various places around the world. I would always have an architect and artist paired up to create each house. In no particular order I would ask/would have asked: Donald Judd; Glenn Murcott; Eva Hesse; Corbusier; Walter Pichler; James Turrell; Georgia O’Keefe; Pablo Picasso; and my father.Where are all the developers with a sense of adventure in LA? How can we encourage them? Send all of the developers to architecture school. It may help them appreciate why ‘good design’ is important to our lives.Preferred mode of transportation?A Smart car - soon to be available to the US market.How does a growing city like LA balance between the need for more housing and development with a need to preserve parts of its architectural history?Building and promoting Prefab modular housing is an excellent option for LA. Building within the margins - undeveloped lots, stacking and creating density, mixed-use programming - all are options when building Prefab. The unique charm of LA is in its building diversity, both the historic and the futuristic.Fuck, Marry, Kill - Eric Owen Moss, Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry?Have a child with each and then decide.For the aspiring architect in Los Angeles, where do they begin, what should they expect, and is there any place better than LA at the moment to be doing architecture?Move to LA.
Start your own firm.
Build something. Make it good. Make it memorable.
Live and/or work in it.
Tell Curbed LA.
Get it published. There is no better place for doing architecture.

Let’s end with the bane of Curbed LA’s existence. The problem that has been plaguing us from the beginning: Why is there such a proliferation of faux-Tuscan architecture in LA?Because Dwell and HGTV did not exist before.