Occasioned by the exhibition “Element House: Architecture for a new ecology” at Denver’s Museum of Outdoor Arts, this book tells the story of a prefabricated, modular house designed by the architects MOS. The form of the book is inspired by a short film – The Romance of Systems – made by the architects with a specially constructed turntable. A loop, slowly panning back and forth across the length of a seemingly endless house, the film follows the conversation of two architects. It is unclear whether the architects are subjects within the house or whether the house is the subject of their conversation. The book, adopting the looping structure of the film, is organized as five nested signatures – a book within a book within a book within a book within a book – which map to five chapters in the house’s realization.
Each chapter, excepting the center-most, forces the reader to jump across the intervening ones, creating a visceral sense of the project’s modularity. The story becomes less and less abstract as the book nears the center: beginning with the idea of the house and telescoping into the site specific installation of the house in New Mexico. Wrapped in a drawing of the house’s shingled wrapper, the book’s profile suggests the archetypal envelope of the house, and its stair-stepped octavo signatures (fore-edges trimmed separately before binding so their thickness creates “creep”) echo the house’s segmentation. The book-object is equivalent to other representations of the house-object in the exhibition.