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It's always a little risky to see in one headline about the architecture business, or in the fate of a single firm, a parable for the profession as a whole. But news that the prefab specialist Michelle Kaufmann has suddenly closed her Oakland office and laid off all 17 of her employees does seem to have Larger Symbolism written all over it.

Kaufmann's is hardly the only prefab firm to face trouble in recent months. Empyrean International, the company that built houses for Dwell magazine's prefab arm, abruptly shut down last fall. Marmol Radziner, the Los Angeles firm known for smartly designed Neomodern houses, has mothballed its prefab factory in Vernon in what it says is a temporary move.

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