rob luntz and joe tanney
resolution: 4 architecture
new york city

It all started with a loft. Dozens of lofts, actually. For 15 years, the New York City firm Resolution: 4 Architecture has relied on a steady diet of loft renovations. “Doing a lot of high-end residential work in New York, we've learned to maximize each and every inch of space,” says co-founder Joseph Tanney, AIA. Hearing his loft clients bemoan the lack of Modern housing options outside the city gave him and partner Robert Luntz, AIA, some food for thought. If they could design a minimal box within an existing building, they reasoned, why couldn't they do the same thing on its own—a freestanding loft? And, for that matter, why couldn't they repeat the module over and over again, offering home buyers an affordable Modern housing option? “It's a natural extension of our work to be designing within a box,” Tanney says. “We've been doing this since we started.” Tanney and Luntz, whose combined resumes include stints with Gwathmey Siegal, Peter Eisenman, FAIA, and Perkins & Will, knew they weren't the first to imagine mass-produced Modern housing. “Most architects over the age of 40 will say they've been interested in it at some point,” Tanney says. For several years the idea was just that to them—an interest, rather than something they actually pursued. But around 2002 the revitalized prefab movement caught the attention of the media, and the deluge of press spurred Tanney and Luntz to stop dreaming. After researching all aspects of the prefabricated housing business, they decided to focus on modular designs. And they came up with an angle most of their failed predecessors hadn't tried: working within the system, rather than trying to change it from the outside. Instead of expecting manufacturers to adapt to their ideas, they decided to design houses that could be built using established factory procedures. Since the industry wasn't seeking out Modern designs, they'd bring Modernism to the industry.

Once the pair had established their course of action, they designed a series of six modular housing typologies. Several variations exist within each typology, and each one can be customized and combined with other modules to create a house tailored to its site and client. For example, the Dwell Home, Resolution: 4's winning entry in dwell magazine's 2003 prefab invitational, is a modification of the Two-Bar Bridge, a subset of the Standard Bar typology. And the firm based a just completed 2,500-square-foot home in Annapolis, Md., on the Z Series typology, adapting it to fit a narrow site, channel waterfront views, and save an existing tree. The system refutes the notion that prefab doesn't take the site into account, a subject Tanney feels strongly about. “Architecture needs to be site-specific,” he says. “You can't just plop down McDonald's everywhere. We're not interested in perpetuating the complacency of American suburbs.”