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Tear Downs

Credit crunch crushes MoMA’s houses of the future.


With both the housing and art-bubble markets deflating fast, perhaps it’s no surprise that MoMA’s “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling” didn’t do so well as real estate. The architects were allowed to sell their dream houses after the show closed October 26, and Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev expressed interest in buying all five. But that fell through. “We were in the process of negotiating this, and we were waiting for an answer from his lawyer,” says one of the architects, Lawrence Sass. “And the market crashed the Friday before he was going to give us his answer.” Lebedev had viewed the exhibition twice with Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s chief curator of architecture and design, says Sass, who priced his home at $300,000. But Lebedev “backed out at the last minute,” says Cyrilla Layland of Stribling, broker for Douglas Gauthier and Jeremy Edmiston’s house.

Only Horden Cherry Lee Architects’ microcompact home has found a buyer (it was delivered to a Millbrook-based client November 1). Gauthier’s laser-cut plywood beach house was originally priced at $475,000. In August, a month into the show, the price was sliced by $100,000. “I had somebody from Old Greenwich and someone from Quogue who wanted to buy it,” Layland says. “Then they got cold feet.” Finally, “the architects said they’d take $250,000,” Layland says. Architect James Timberlake says his firm originally entertained over 50 inquiries for its aluminum-and-polycarbonate Cellophane House. It was listed for $1.75 million, but, lacking a buyer, is now being disassembled. Another house was shipped back to Europe, where it came from. Sass’s and Gauthier’s houses were torn down already. “It’s sad,” Gauthier says, “but nobody wanted it.”

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