The History of Quonset Huts


“Success has many fathers”, so the saying goes.

Way back in the 1960’s , when most young people are filling up stadiums  and farmstead  to listen to rock bands play their latest tunes; a parallel groundswell of support was being carried out in the hallways of educational institutions. The main difference is that they were not looking for the usual high of drugs being passed around but they are nevertheless a “cool crowd.” Whom were they listening to? The epitome of “uncool” at the period of our history when the flower people are the mainstream  – the famous  professor Buckminster Fuller and his famous out-of this world ideas.

It is said that Fuller was the first mainstream icon to propose the proliferation of spherical structures as the next big thing in architecture. Some of his ideas are so radical that they are even used to design space stations and a proposed glass hemispherical dome to cover several Burroughs of New York City. Fuller was soon credited with many environmentally centric paradigms including the global warming and climate change concepts we hear of today.

But was it really radical? The truth is that even way back to Word War I and II, proponents have already surfaced to trumpet the praises of hemispherical shaped housing structures. Soon enough, when the concept was successfully proven as a reliable design for Martian structures.; many versions of the Quonset Huts history soon surfaced. With its murky past, this is probably why there are several versions of the history of the simple by popular design known as the Quonset Hut. First seen after World War I’s British designed prefabricated cabins, Quonsets began transforming into a variety of uses and configurations soon after World War II.

Further back in history, the modern version of the Quonset Huts bear lose resemblance to the long houses used by the Native American tribes particularly those of the Iroquois. The basic structure of the Quonset Hut is composed of steel ribs covered by corrugated steel and closed at the bottom by a layer of plywood. These structures can provide between 700 – 1000 square feet of usable floor space.

But there are also some accounts that say the Quonset hut developed by the US army is based on the Nissen Hut of British Origin. Regardless of its political history and whoever deserves the credit for it, Quonset huts have made their mark in the architectural world as reliable and readily assembled solutions for immediate housing needs both in wartime and in peacetime. Nowadays, there is a renewed clamor for similar solutions for a variety of applications such as greenhouses, immediate housing for evacuees and triages, and the like.

The concepts and ideas derived from natural discoveries will continue to emerge; and what may happen soon is the realization that solutions like these do not have to expensive for them to work as designed. Further down the road, the future of Quonset Huts may give way to modern materials to give them better strength to make up for its relative weaknesses to heavy focused loading particularly when exposed to heavy snowfall. Possible changes may include a design revision that allows several levels of the Hut can be constructed on top on of one another.

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