Thomas Edison Designed Precast Concrete Homes

History may be in the past, but we are still learning about new developments in history. A researcher from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) recently presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians that Thomas Edison also invented the concrete house. NJIT Assistant Professor Matt Burgermaster's presentation discussed how Edison invented and patented a construction system to mass product prefabricated and seamless concrete houses in 1917. In fact, many of these houses are still around in towns surrounding West Orange, New Jersey – the area where Edison's factory was located and is now a national historic park. A prototype of Edison's concrete house can be found on the park grounds. Burgermaster's paper analyzed Edison's invention of a single-pour system for concrete construction and speculated on its role in the development of a type of integrated building anatomy that also invented the idea of a seamless architecture. Burgermaster's research says the system was originally created to be a cost-effective prototype for the working-class home and was one of Modernism's first attempts to construct a building with a single material. The research further goes on to say Edison's 1917 patent proposed a building-sized mold that leveraged the intrinsically dynamic capacity of concrete to form itself into a variety of shapes and sizes, limited only by the design of its framework. "I don't think this research on Edison's invention offers grounds for anyone to call those European architects copycats. As anyone in a creative field knows, sometimes these things are just in the air and like minds can be said to think alike," Burgermaster said. Read a synopsis of Burgermaster's paper and presentation.

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