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WHAT IS AN ALL-PLASTIC HOUSE?

Plastic is complicit in acts of architectural prognostication. It was and is a future material. An all plastic house is then a proposal for prototypical dwelling that relies on one material—plastic—to reinvent structural, aesthetic, fabrication, assembly and performance paradigms in architecture. Between the years 1944 and 1970 one can cite upwards of ten proposals for an all-plastic house that separately involve six different countries, United States, France, England, Italy, Germany and Sweden. These early proposals are gathered from three primary resources: The Plastics Architect by Arthur Quarmby published in 1974 and two issues of Progressive Architecture, June 1960 and January 1970.

From the year 2000 onward, one can identify more than thirty-five projects, institutional, commercial and residential, that significantly involve plastic technologies as part of their material assembly. Four of these projects fit the all plastic house description. But, to fully understand the implications of the all plastic house trajectory we need to ask: What is the impetus for an All Plastic House? What fills the space of time between the recent-past and present-day plastic house projects? What are the constructional and performative differences between the recent-past plastic house projects and the present plastic house projects?

This time line is then assembled across two primary sets of data; dates of invention for types of plastic, and dates and descriptions of significant plastic house prototypes. Its curving background is borrowed from Ashby’s graph and it additionally includes samples of post-war plastic advertisements as well as the covers of two Progressive Architecture issues dedicated to the subject of plastic and architecture. While this timeline is by no means comprehensive, it does attempt to reveal the relationship between prototypical architectural making and material invention.


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