Stran-Steel House by O'Dell and Rowland (1933-1934)

Architect/Designer: 
Model Overview: 

Good Housekeeping magazine combined forces with the Stran-Steel Corporation and the Detroit-based architectural partnership of H. August O'Dell and Wirt C. Rowland to fabricate one of the more innovative houses presented at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition's Houses of Tomorrow display in 1933. The partnership cleverly married three parties with complementary functions: O'Dell and Rowland would provide the design, Stran-Steel would provide raw materials and fabrication techniques that would largely inspire the design strategy, and Good Housekeeping would lend its reputation as a modern lifestyle trendsetter. Collectively they would fashion a house that would appeal to clients interested in a self-styled and experimental prefabricated modern dwelling, a steel-framed, two story boxlike volume with smaller volumes flanking either side, the upper level in the middle section being entirely dedicated to a large recreation room.

The 1,300-square-foot house sold for a mere $7,500 (about $110,000 in 2008) and was one of the few houses from the exposition later replicated for fabrication. The baked iron enamel modular panels cladding the steel skeleton were until this date entirely unknown to the realm of housing, being more traditionally associated with domestic fixtures like bathtubs and kitchen appliances. The steel frame consisted of newly designed steel beams developed by Stran-Steel. These were the first such beams to have greater flexibility than wood beams while also being lighter and stronger, each beam connecting to the other by interlocking joints rather than on-site welding, which would have increased cost and assembly time. A specially designed nail penetrated the girders and held both the wallboard and exterior enamel panels in place.

The house, as proved over the exposition's duration, was highly weather resistant and entirely fireproof. With rounded corners and exterior frieze, the house was more akin stylistically to its Art Deco contemporaries than to the majority of exhibition houses in line with the International Style. Despite its stylistic connection to Art Deco, the material palette of the project was strictly industrial. Along with the Keck Crystal House and three others, the original exhibition house was relocated to Beverly Shores, Indiana, where it can still be seen.

(Source: Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling by Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen)

Project Type: 
Production - Marketed and sold by vendor and available for purchase in North America.
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