Update 5-27-09: Michelle Kaufmann explains what's next.
A short few hours ago, an article popped up on the LA Times website breaking the unfortunate news that Michelle Kaufmann Designs is shutting down by the end of this week. Despite the fact that the article was written by Christopher Hawthorne — pretty much the most authoritative architecture critic on the West Coast, the news was hard to process. This is the firm that's built 40 green prefab houses, including the mkLotus, mkSolaire Smart Home, and a number of other beautiful green prefabs! MKD can't close its doors! But in an email late this afternoon, Michelle confirmed the news.
Hawthorne explains the nitty-gritty: "Kaufmann sold the factory last year and in November trimmed the size of her Oakland office to 17. She thought those moves would help see the firm through the recession. But two factories MKD worked with have gone out of business since then, and clients and potential clients have found it almost impossible to get financing."
A confluence of several factors became too significant to handle: closed factories, lack of home financing, abundant labor pushing down the cost of stick-built construction, tough market conditions …
But MKD followers can all take comfort in the fact that, although the firm is closing, the ideas and people behind them will continue to contribute to this still fledgling industry. In an email, Michelle said she's working with builders and developers to scale the designs that have already been created. And she's going to focus more on sustainable communities as well.
These are tough economic times. Although lately it seems that there's been a trickle of more positive financial news, today's headline indicates that we still have some hurdles to clear. Jetson Green wishes the staff and everyone affected by MKD's closing a quick and speedy recovery.
Photo credit: John Swain Photography.