The TrailerWrap Project: Rehabilitating the American Trailer House
Often looked down upon the trailer house and its setting, the trailer park, constitute an important American housing typology. Beginning in the mid-1940’s the use of the trailer and trailer park, originally developed to serve a recreational market, was rapidly adapted to deal with the acute housing shortages precipitated by the war effort. By the late 1950’s, trailer houses had become an established housing typology and a part of the American vernacular landscape. They were mass produced as a seemingly ideal and efficient solution to the problem of affordable housing. In the course of this transformation, several important design ideas and environmental strategies that allow the house to be transformed into a home were discarded, with predictable psychological, behavioral and social consequences. Those mid-century trailer houses and trailer parks are currently deconstructing themselves; literally and metaphorically. Unplanned obsolescence has affected all aspects of their performance, with the result that their presence and role are as an affordable housing type is being threatened. As a response to the need to deal with this emerging problem, the TrailerWrap project addresses the difficult questions surrounding the future of the American trailer house. TrailerWrap set out to provide a simple and affordable solution that could improve the spatial and material quality, the energy efficiency, the social and psychological context, and the behavioral consequences of the debilitated trailer through its rehabilitation. It explored a way of inhabiting shelter that conventional trailer house design had ignored in the interest of efficient mass production. The project’s tangible outcome is a rich, affordable spatial setting that exists as an example of how the debilitated trailer house can be rehabilitated to become a viable and affordable contemporary trailer home.
Keywords: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, Affordable Housing, Energy Efficiency, Green Construction, Livability
Professor of Architecture and Chancellor's Scholar, Department of Architecture