Jennifer Siegal's interest in the concepts of portability and sustainability began with practical applications that had ancestral roots.

Jennifer Siegal's interest in the concepts of portability and sustainability began with practical applications that had ancestral roots.

While a graduate student in architecture at Los Angeles' Southern California Institute of Architecture, Siegal owned and operated a hot dog cart. ("You can make some money," she said.) She learned her grandfather had, later in his life, done the same on Coney Island.

She also spent some of her high school years studying in the Middle East, encountering, among other cultures, the Bedouins of the Sinai desert.

"I've always had a fascination with impermanence," she said.

Her graduate and post-graduate research and work soon developed a keen focus on the related concepts of portability and sustainability.

"One of my first projects after graduating was with Southern California Edison (electric utility) to rethink the portable school classrooms in LA," she said. "As I explored the factories and how those classrooms were built, I saw that I could take some of those practices and concepts to residential design."

She founded the Office of Mobile Design, a design firm at which she made her name as the creator of the post-modern prefabricated home, as a way to explore and employ some of these approaches and practices.

"I was involved in all this research, all this thinking about the ideas of mobility and deployable structures. It was pre-Internet and cell phone and laptop, but you could already see that communications was moving toward becoming smaller and more portable. I wanted to see how architecture would be responsive to a more portable planet," she said.

To date, Siegal's work has included homes, schools, business and commercial applications, museum installations - "Pretty much everything." Her mobile structures include customized, prefab, green modernist homes; a Mobile EcoLab used to teach students about the environment; and the Portable Construction Training Center created for the Venice Community Housing Corporation. Her most recent work is a modern, modular home product line called Take Home.

There has been a sea change in the landscape of sustainable, portable architecture in the years since OMD was founded, she said. Her work shares concepts, she said, in emergency relief housing, the food truck craze and the tiny house movement.

Canzani Center Auditorium

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19

60 Cleveland Ave., Downtown

contemporaryartspace.ccad.edu