The more observant passer-by may spot the origins of the top half of The Cube: it is a prefab (short for prefabricated house) that has been craned onto a pontoon. Both of these gems of past British history would have been common sights in post-war east London. The lower half is believed to be a buffer pontoon, built possibly around 1930, and used in one of London’s docks to moor large boats. Placed at the bow or stern where the boat curved away from the wharf, it provided a smooth line to moor against. This suggestion comes from a Thames historian, who used to play in the old docks as a lad! Another clue is the robustly braced internal construction designed to withstand heavy forces such as large ships. Prefabs, like the ones pictured below in Deptford, were built after World War II, as a short term solution to the housing problem. Like the luxe-motor, they were popular, as they had running water, inside bathrooms and electric cookers. Some are obviously still in use today!
The pontoon is of riveted steel construction, with originally a rough timber deck. It arrived at Church Wharf (the wharf then behind the pier) in October 1983 towed by the white boat seen in the photo above. The prefab was then lowered on. Prefabs can be put together in as little as 3 hours, so this was an instant home! Subsequently the timber cladding, portholes and steel deck were added. There are about 35sq metres of living space upstairs with 45 sq metres on the lower deck, but with restricted headroom! The Cube is the only home here to be built on site! A great example of recycling!