The Exhibition

October 16, 2005 - January 1, 2006
Anchorage Museum of History and Art

Quonset: Metal Living for a Modern Age is a 5000-square-foot exhibition that focuses on the history of Quonset huts.

The introduction to the exhibit places the Quonset hut into the timeline of portable building systems and examines its placement in Alaska, where portable structures have long been a way of life.

Next, the exhibit takes visitors back to World War II, the time during which the Quonset was designed to serve the U.S. military's needs for shelter and when Quonset huts first came to Alaska prior to the bombing of the Aleutian Islands.

The structure of a Quonset hut may seem simple, but it did evolve over time, adapted to meet a variety of climates and conditions and again and again demonstrated its mandate to be easily installed, taken down, and transported. While there are many types of arched-ribbed huts, the Quonset hut remains unique. The exhibit offers visitors a visual definition of the Quonset hut and outlines the differences between it and the many portable hut versions that came after it.

Think the Quonset hut is only industrial and utilitarian? The exhibit considers the ways in which the Quonset hut inspired leading architects who used the Quonset form to create more elaborate building designs. Architect Bruce Goff is one such architect and his Quonset-inspired work is examined in detail in the exhibition, including through a computer-generated architectural fly-through of Goff's Ford residence. The home and studio built for American Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell by the architect Pierre Chareau can also be explored in three-dimensions with the use of a computer.

After World War II, the Quonset hut needed a new role to play. The exhibit illustrates the Quonset hut as a solution to the postwar housing shortage in the U.S. and Alaska, and its appearance in magazine ads, television programs, toy sets, and more. Quonset huts became ubiquitous found on farms, homesteads, college campuses, in downtowns, and at the outskirts of towns. Quonset huts were grocery stores, music studios, sports facilities, schools, hospitals, restaurants and even churches.

Finally, the exhibit examines the Quonset hut today. With special emphasis on Alaska, the exhibit offers examples of how the Quonset hut is still integrated into our daily lives and our ever-changing buildingscape.