Prefab past & present

  • 1
Huf-haus_trim

A Huf-Haus house.

Johaan Huf was a German Carpenter who had humble origins but much grander dreams. From a small but productive carpentry shop and sawmill that opened in 1912 in Hartenfels in the Westerwald region, he survived the challenges of two World Wars – and slowly built up a family-led empire that created what we know today as Huf Haus.

As a brand that has strong roots and a clear vision, every Huf Haus has a distinctive architectural signature. Elegant yet modern, with floor-to-ceiling glass, they seem the antithesis of traditional European design. Their transparency is unusual amidst the solid presence of stone and brick.

Huf was a believer in the merits of a timber post-and-beam structural skeleton, which counterbalances all that lightness of being with solid permanence. A gabled roofline allows the homes to commune with the more conventional dwellings in their neighbourhoods, yet the gable is not pixie-house style, rather wide and graceful with generous eaves. Glass clerestory windows shaped into its form usher in high views of the sky and surrounding environment.

Franz Huf (father of current owner Georg Huf) continued the visionary of the company in that he saw the potential in prefabrication as far back as the 1958. He invested in the technology that could pre-make elements in the factory and added turn-key dwellings to the portfolio, to become a design-and-build company, rather than carpenters. Specialised machinery allowed him to manufacture laminated Scandinavian spruce posts and beams, kiln dried to the highest standards. They used the post-and-beam to provide an external skeleton which meant the infill panels of glass or timber needn’t be load bearing. So a revolution in pre-made components of construction allowed a freedom in design that created the modernist style homes we know today.

Pioneers of the industry, Huf Haus has a 100-year history and a track record that proves production-line parts do not necessarily equate with poor quality, as is often the perception here in New Zealand. The Huf Haus system cleverly maintains a balance between elements that are prefabricated and bespoke design – a yin-and-yang avenue we also pursue at Box™. The timber-frame architecture has enjoyed commercial realisation with 10,000 houses now dotted through Germany and Eurasia. Here in New Zealand, Box™ is pleased to draw on the steadfast success of Huf Haus, adapting our design-and-build system to the Kiwi sensibility, climate and topography.

We think Johann and his kin have the right ideas and, just as an aside, while we have become known for our mono-pitch rooflines, we also love to do gables…