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A Journey with GPS-General Panel System
SAH/SCC Tour & Talk: Laguna Beach
Saturday, June 12, 2010

Join SAH/SCC for an afternoon of discovery at a formerly unknown General Panel System home. SAH/SCC News Editor Julie D. Taylor will moderate a discussion with homeowner David Schroeder and architectural historian Jeffrey Head, as they tell the story of uncovering the home's provenance and discuss LA-based pre-fab pioneers.

Having purchased the Laguna Beach house in 1978, Schroeder was the seventh owner, and he knew nothing of the home's background. Upon reading Head's 2009 Los Angeles Times article (http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/13/home/hm-panel13) on a General Panel System pre-fab remodel, he recognized that his home must be within the GPS family.

The Burbank-based General Panel Corporation was launched in 1947 by architects Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann, and lasted until its bankruptcy in 1952. The Schroeder House is known as Type B3-The Town & Country, and was designed by architect Josef Van der Kar.

From Head's article: "The system cut cost and construction time because it was based on standardized panels, each about 3 feet, 4 inches wide and 8 feet, 4 inches tall. The panels were built on a wood frame and covered with quarter-inch waterproof Douglas fir plywood on both sides. This basic building unit formed the walls, the floor, the ceiling and the roof. Other panels were fitted with doors and windows.

"At the core of the design were three built-in metal 'wedge connectors,' a sort of Chinese puzzle that locked the panels together. A hammer tightened the wedge; no nails or screws were needed.

"The connector was a precisely engineered technological solution, one that Wachsmann patented. The design opened up endless variations. Rooms could be made practically any size, in multiples of 3 foot 4. 'General Panel has standardized not the house, but its elements,' Wachsmann would declare in company documents."

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