Prefabulous, and a chat with Bruce Schimmel

Installation of A Clean Break across from Kimmel Center
 A Clean Break, organized by curators from Minima. The show is part of the two-week confab, Design Philadelphia.  This is a view looking towards the Kimmel Center.

People were rushing around putting on last-minute touches to the pre-fabs exhibit A Clean Break, part of Design Philadelphia, when we arrived there on the vacant lot on South Broad Street last Wednesday, about an hour before the opening.

Habitat Home
Habitat Home–Habitat for Humanity will place this in Philadelphia next month. Here it’s just a scrim to represent the house.

The funkiest and in some ways the best thing there was the Habitat for Humanity prefab which will be installed on a Philadelphia 30-foot lot next month. (Habitat Home is made by Gans Studio and Darchitects)  We thought it was the best because it wasn’t really there.  It was just a scrim, a stage set! But you could visualize it based on that wee bit of info. We had just seen the MoMA show, Home Design, which also had a vacant lot with prefabs set up. And we were told by a spokesperson for A Clean Break’s curators Eugenie Perret and Elizabeth Oliver, that the Philly show differed from MoMA’s because “these are affordable…unlike the $1M Timberlake (prefab). These are for you and me.”

Greengrows Farms
Greengrows Farms has an exhibit.

We were joined by Bruce Schimmel who was also there early to tour the exhibit. Schimmel is the founding publisher (now emeritus) of Philadelphia City Paper, and he seemed to know a lot about sustainable housing. So we peppered him with questions. Here’s a taste of how it went:

Inside Minihome, a darling prefab that people were shocked to see was larger than their apartments. Minihome Sustain Design Studio

How do you know so much about this?
He answered that he pilots a glider — a motorized glider, so he gets the way it works (storing electricity, kind of like a hybrid vehicle.)

You see a lot of these exhibits?

The best was the Solar Decathalon in Washington D.C.  (Run by the US Department of Energy). There were about 20 houses on the mall and they had to generate electricity….

Minihome outside. Minihome Sustain Design Studio
Minihome outside. Minihome Sustain Design Studio

But the bigger problem is how to retrofit brick houses….(interested? read about passive solar retrofits)

Then he asks us — he thinks he’s heard of us before — for what else to see… We mention Tim Belknap at Fleisher Challenge and Global Warming at the Icebox…then we mention something at the Art Museum.

Minihome’s stairs to the loft bed are a built-in bookcase. Minihome Sustain Design Studio

No, that’s not for me.  That’s for my brother.  He’s the art guy.

Who’s your brother?
He’s got the same last name.  He with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Not Paul Schimmel?  We just saw him at the Fabric Workshop and Museum (introducing Ed Ruscha who gave a slide talk). He’s great! Schimmel curated the Ruscha show up now at the FWM.

Yes, he’s really enthusiastic.

A Clean Break
Wooden floors were set up for the furniture and other displays. Seating by Daniel Michalik.

We wondered how Schimmel got started in the newspaper business. He said he was at UPenn getting a PhD in English, was abd and facing the horror of writing a thesis. Then he got the offer of starting City Paper…Study dead guys or run a living newspaper? The choice seemed clear to him.  But he sold the paper (for a cool $4M, he told us) in 1996 to Metroweek. And now he gets to write a weekly column (he’s always done that) but doesn’t have to take the blame for the bad…but gets to claim credit for the good.

Then he had to run off to his yoga class…

Philly Bike Share
Philly Bike Share at the exhibit.

The prefabs will be on display through Oct. 30
313 S. Broad (at Spruce St.)
daily 11 am-7 pm

More photos at Roberta’s flickr.