Techbuilt House/Swallen House


Carl Koch


1954


Description

The Techbuilt House/Swallen House is situated on a heavily wooded lot, which runs north-to-south on the north side of a hill. The lot slopes upwards towards the west and north. The hill has been terraced to fit the house, patio, and play area. This house has an irregular plan consisting of a rectangular structure connected by a hyphen to a cross-shaped addition. The wood-framed house has a concrete foundation and the walls are clad in redwood siding. The gabled roof is clad in asphalt shingles. Windows dominate each facade of the original structure. The hyphen attaches to the original building at a perpendicular angle, but then tapers as it turns towards the addition, which is rotated at an angle to the rest of the structure. The center of the addition is a square, but the projecting segments at each elevation create a slightly trapezoidal structure, which tapers towards the southwest. At each corner of the addition is a slightly projecting, floor-to-ceiling, rectangular window bay. The main elevations of the addition are composed of floor-to-ceiling windows as well. A flagstone patio is located to the south of the original structure and the hyphen.


Significance

The two-story rectangular portion of the Techbuilt House/Swallen House was constructed in 1954 for James Swallen. A carport was also constructed south of the home at this time.

The Techbuilt House was designed by architect Carl Koch in 1953 as a pre-fabricated house prototype. At least two other Techbuilt Houses were constructed in New Canaan: the Techbuilt House/Aderer House in 1954-55 and the Techbuilt House/Wilson House in 1958. Koch designed several affordable prefabricated housing prototypes starting in the late 1940s. The Techbuilt House was one of the most successful and would eventually be available in twenty-two models. When first designed, the Techbuilt House could be constructed (on average) for $7.50/square foot, as compared to $10/square foot for a conventional builder's house and $15/square foot for a custom-built house.

The exterior design of the Techbuilt House was characterized by a pitched roof, large plate glass windows on the gable ends, and deep eaves. Koch had determined that the most economical use of space was achieved by a two-story plan that was essentially an "attic" with high side walls stacked on a partially recessed "basement," allowing for adequate light and ventilation at both levels. The shell of the house was composed of stress skinned panels on a four-foot-wide module. The main entrance could be located either at the gable ends or on the side walls, depending on how the building was situated to the street. The utility core and stairs were located at the core of the house to allow for flexible use of the interior spaces.

The pre-fabricated shell of the house, which included wall panels, end panels, floor panels, roof panels, and beams, girders, and trim, was designed for shipment in a single truckload delivery to a site with a prepared foundation. Once on site, four men could unload the components, frame the house, and roof it within two days. All of the finishing work could then be completed inside. The primary cost savings were created through the delivery method and fast pace of construction. The Techbuilt House could be customized to different sizes and floor plans and allowed owners to finish the interiors to individual taste and budget.

In 1960, two sheds were added to the property. In 1964, a corridor and one-story addition were added to the west of the home. Harvard Five architect Landis Gores designed the addition. The elevated plinth where this house sits offers a feeling of security and privacy, which allows the outdoor living spaces to be located on the front side of the house and facilitated the extensive use of glass in the construction of both the original building and the addition.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.