After reading this item about a French modular housing initiative, I asked Eric Hunting for his commentary.
He promised a full article later, but already sent some comments.
“I’ll try working on an article on the state of the art in modular architecture and its relation to P2P modes of development. I have enough material to put together for it. In the context of Post-Industrial architecture in general, adaptive reuse and recycling are the dominant focus. But in the context of P2P we move to the concept of ‘perpetual’ adaptive reuse, most embodied in plug-in architecture and functionally generic architecture. Plug-in architecture are those modular component systems where you have relatively small demountable components that can be assembled in many combinations -as opposed to the more common -among designers…- large module systems where a single module comprises a whole room or large section of a structure and has a topologically limited number of ways to interface. Functionally generic architecture is based on large span structures of no fixed function -like pavilion structures, skybreak structures, tension roof systems, loft buildings, modern office buildings, the ‘cells’ of arcology designs, and so on- that have no pre-assigned purpose and are adapted on demand to functional uses by non-permanent retrofit, likely based on similar small scale component systems or ‘disposable’ structure. As you may already see, there’s a difference in potential P2P social structures implied in these two kinds of architecture. In plug-in architecture there is no strict line between the level of personal customization and the community level of group design decisions. However, with the latter form there is a distinct line between personal-level ‘microstructure’ and community level ‘macrostructure’ with implied differences in the pace of structural change as well which effect choices of building technology. This plays out in aspects of urban evolution. Currently, plug-in architecture is limited in the maximum height of structures it can effectively support -about 10 storeys. With functional generic architecture, you have no such limit but the larger the scale of macrostructures the slower the potential pace of evolution of the habitat and so the more critical the degree of generalization in design becomes to efficiency of retrofit adaptation -the more the macrostructure has to have the aspect of a landscape as opposed to a building.”