In the second half of the 1920s the modernist architects of Europe, perceiving an urgent need to reform city planning and especially public housing policies, sought to address the social changes resulting from industrialization. At a 1928 meeting at La Sarraz, Switzerland, architects from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, and Switzerland formed the Congres Internationaux dArchitecture Moderne CIAM, agreeing that rationalization and standardization were the chief ways to solve the housing problems each country then faced. CIAM reconvened in Frankfurt in 1929 to discuss the pragmatic issue of existenzenminimumlow-cost residential units. That unit should replace house in its lexicon is an indicator of pervasive socialist thinking indeed, politics could not be excluded from any debate on urbanism and housing policies. In its Athens Charter, derived in 1933 and published ten years later, CIAM offered modern technology as the generic solution to the urban problems that would be exacerbated by World War II. That is, they called for a new way of building, and that displacement of conventional thinking with a problem-solving approach was an architectural feat in itself. Success is a different matter.
It is one thing to theorize, quite another to find real solutions. Designers on both sides of the Atlantic were investigating industrialized construction techniques as a means of making better, affordable housing. As early as 1910 the German architect Walter Gropius advocated the industrial production of interchangeable housing components, and in 1914 Le Corbusiers Domino house system employed a standardized framework. It was perhaps inevitable that many of the resulting products were mechanistic and austere, emphasizing structure and detail at the expense of esthetic considerations. This new, efficient way of making architecture was grasped as an opportunity to realize the house as a machine for living in. The first half of the twentieth century is replete with designs for systems and components, too numerous to include here. Suffice it to identify a few key individuals.
The French blacksmith and steel fabricator Jean Prouve 1901 1984 began experiments with prefabricated construction in 1925, in partnership with Aluminium Fran