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Gotham Summer Shows Tout Futuristic Features

Two major museum exhibitions in Manhattan provide fresh insights on innovative design.

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Cellophane House

Cellophane House.

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Two major museum exhibitions in Manhattan provide fresh insights on innovative design.

At the Museum of Modern Art, “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling” houses everything you need to know about factory-made architecture from 1833 to today.

Many visitors are heading to the outdoor lot west of the museum to engage in a favorite New York pastime, real estate envy. There, five full-scale prefab houses have been installed. They were selected from 500 proposals. Kiernan Timberlake Architects’ five-story Cellophane House is the star of this lineup. Made from recyclable materials, the aluminum frame structure did not require any welding. The aluminum “chunks,” as the Philadelphia-based firm likes to call them, have grooves that allow them to slip into tracks. Therefore, they can be recycled elsewhere.

The east and west sides of the Cellophane House are covered with SmartWrap, a transparent, double-layered film that has photo voltaic cells connected to copper filament that pools energy and routes it to a central battery that can power the house.

“There’s been a lot of interest in being off the grid, but that has largely been a fantasy for people who live in cities,” curatorial assistant Peter Christensen said. “This is sustainable.”

At the Whitney Museum of Art, it’s all about the transdisciplinary thinker R. Buckminster Fuller and his personal crusade to bridge the sciences and the humanities.

Museum visitors are mesmerized by his Model of Dymaxion Dwelling Machines community, circa 1946. Seeking to transform “weaponry” into “livingry” after World War II, Fuller imagined using leftover airplane machinery for dome-like octagonal houses in what essentially looks like a NASA-envisioned gated community. (“Dymaxion” was a combination of “dynamic,” “maximum” and “ion.”) The Dymaxion “2” 4D Transport, a three-wheel car circa 1934, is also worth a look.