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Issue 2.2

The Impact of Measurement Research on Prefabrication and Modulation in SOM’s Postwar Housing and Office Buildings

Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM) committed to innovations in prefabrication and modulation of construction in the mid-twentieth century. This paper examines SOM’s collaboration with the John B. Pierce Foundation in the 1940s, which advanced the firm’s technical and theoretical expertise on prefabricated housing and large-scale office buildings. The Pierce Foundation conducted research on prefabrication and ergonomics, and carried out physiological and psychological research in the domestic environment. Their extensive measurements of objects, building parts, and human activities in the domestic environment were crucial to SOM’s advancements in modulated office design. The Union Carbide Headquarters (1960) illustrates the impact of the measurement of physical and spatial dimensions on the modern corporate office building.

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