Walker Art Center

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FlatPak in the Garden

If you’ve ever biked along the Cedar Lake Trail, you’ve probably encountered a modern house set among the stately Victorian homes in the Kenwood neighborhood. Built in 2004–2005, the home is a prototype for FlatPak, a prefabricated system for residential architecture designed by Charlie Lazor of Minneapolis-based Lazor Office.

The idea for FlatPak emerged from Lazor’s prior work with Blu Dot, a modern furnishings company that he helped found with John Christakos and Maurice Blanks. Named for the type of knockdown, self-assembled furniture that can be shipped flat in a box, the FlatPak moniker belies the complexity and customization inherent in Lazor’s system. In fact, there’s little out of the box about it, other than its modular grid of eight-foot-wide walls that can be clad in wood, concrete, metal, or glass. Bucking the uniformity typically associated with prefab, FlatPak offers flexibility and variability within its system. No two FlatPaks will probably look alike, although they share the same family of components, materials, and proportions.

In late July, the Walker finished installing its own version of FlatPak in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Located just behind the Cowles Conservatory, FlatPak in the Garden represents the first long-term installation of architectural design since the Walker opened its Idea House II to visitors in the summer of 1947 as an exhibition home of ideas about modern living. The Walker’s FlatPak was originally created for use at the 2005 International Contemporary Furniture Fair by FLOR, a modular carpet company. Many people may have experienced this FlatPak as part of the Walker’s groundbreaking exhibition Some Assembly Required: Contemporary Prefabricated Houses in 2005. In both instances, the structure was situated indoors and lacked a roof and thus never existed in its natural architectural state of shelter or full enclosure.

As part of the installation process, FlatPak in the Garden had to undergo a series of modifications for public rather than residential use as well as weatherizing for its new life outdoors. No longer a home with a kitchen, bath, dining, and living spaces, this one-room FlatPak now welcomes visitors with information about the Garden and other works of art on view, and will host a variety of activities on special days for kids and adults. Next time you visit the Garden, please feel free to drop in or simply take a peek inside.

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Furnishings generously provided by Blu Dot.