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The World’s Coolest Prefab Houses

These houses, which can be plopped down nearly anywhere—on roofs, in deserts, on riverbanks—offer stylish alternatives to mobile homes for the contemporary nomad. Some can be built up in the course of a day, then broken down again, like giant Legos. And, as we all know by now, such homes are far more eco-friendly than resource-guzzling McMansions.

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SHoP Architects, a young New York firm, has grand designs. The firm’s seven partners say they won’t be content to merely leave a mark on America’s most important skyline; they also want to transform the business of creating buildings. “Sometimes we joke,” says one partner, Vishaan Chakrabarti, “that the nearest precedent is McKim, Mead & White.”

It’s a nervy comparison for a New York architect to make, even in jest—a little like a pop group invoking Mozart—but SHoP has begun to back its ambitions with big commissions. Over the past few years, the firm has become the city’s go-to designer for complex, civically important projects. In November, when the owner of a controversial Manhattan waterfront scheme unveiled plans for a 50-story hotel and marina, SHoP was his architect. When Michael Bloomberg, the city’s previous mayor, announced a $1.1 billion mixed-income housing development, SHoP partners were at his side. There’s also an ultra-luxury midtown condo tower, 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building; a dockyard redevelopment around an old Brooklyn sugar factory; and even an outlet mall in blue-collar Staten Island, to be adjoined by the world’s tallest Ferris wheel.

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