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Mcmansion Hell: The Latest Architecture and News

Design Criticism Ignores the Places that it Could Help the Most

09:30 - 27 November, 2018
Design Criticism Ignores the Places that it Could Help the Most, Growing economies- and the inspiration of Western style architectural wealth - has led to the development of areas such as these across the world. This example, in Ordos, Mongolia, was built for a prospective population that never quite came.. Image © Raphael Olivier
Growing economies- and the inspiration of Western style architectural wealth - has led to the development of areas such as these across the world. This example, in Ordos, Mongolia, was built for a prospective population that never quite came.. Image © Raphael Olivier

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "The Design Media Needs to Examine its Own Privilege."

Kate Wagner grew up in rural North Carolina. As a kid, her mom, who never went to college, worked in a grocery store deli and later in childcare. Her dad had a steady government job with a pension, and his time in the military meant he had the resources and benefits needed to get a college degree. Wagner describes her economic background as “one foot in the working class and one foot in the middle class, and it was always a negotiation between those two classes.” They were, she says, “just normal-ass American people.”

Dear Internet: Stop Placing Blame for Gentrification on an Architectural Style

09:30 - 26 April, 2018
Dear Internet: Stop Placing Blame for Gentrification on an Architectural Style, The AVA Ballard, market rate apartments in Seattle, Washington. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seattle_-_AVA_(building)_05.jpg'>Wikimedia user Joe Mabel</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
The AVA Ballard, market rate apartments in Seattle, Washington. Image © Wikimedia user Joe Mabel licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Architecture, Aesthetic Moralism, and the Crisis of Urban Housing."

It may shock some people to hear this, but architecture is not urban planning. It is not transportation planning, sociology, political science, or critical geography. However, architecture, new-build apartment architecture specifically, has become a social media scapegoat for today’s urban housing crisis: escalating developer-driven gentrification.

Out of my own curiosity, I searched several academic databases for research that successfully correlates the architectural aesthetic of new build apartments with gentrification. While many writers and denizens of social media really want to blame today’s bland, boxy, cladding-driven style of multifamily urban housing for gentrification, I’m afraid the research isn’t there. In fact, one study featured in a paper on neighborhood early warning systems for gentrification cites historic architecture as one of five predictors of gentrification in the DC area.

Imagining the Future of Suburbia, From “Freedomland” to “McMansion Hell”

04:00 - 22 June, 2017
Imagining the Future of Suburbia, From “Freedomland” to “McMansion Hell”, Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial
Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial

This article was originally published on the blog of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the largest platform for contemporary architecture in North America. The blog invites designers, writers and other contributors to independently express their perspectives on the Biennial across a range of formats. The 2017 Biennial, entitled Make New History, will be free and open to the public between September 16, 2017 and January 6, 2018.

Some works of architectural writing can be taken at face value as stark manifestos for a new aesthetic. Keith Krumwiede’s Atlas of Another America is, instead, a constantly unfurling satire that offers layers upon layers of artfully imagined social commentary. Like McMansion Hell, my own long-form satirical project, Krumwiede’s “architectural fiction" sends up American ideas about economics, politics, and culture by picking apart our outrageous suburban housing types. The project will be on display at the Chicago Architecture Biennial this fall, delivering a sardonic vision of American architecture that comes out of academic theory, but has a potent message for anyone who has spent time in suburbia.

Have We Reached the End of the McMansion Era?

14:05 - 24 August, 2016
Have We Reached the End of the McMansion Era?, © Flickr user dbasulto. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
© Flickr user dbasulto. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The architectural world’s most hated structures may finally be meeting their demise. McMansions, the cheaply-built, faux-opulent mega-houses that litter many of the world’s suburban communities, were born in the 1980s and quickly became the most desirable living accommodation for middle and upper-middle class families. After a slight blip caused by the financial recession of 2008, McMansion popularity returned, with the median size of homes reaching a peak of 2,488 square feet just last year. But as seen in a new study conducted with data from real estate website Trulia, the economic benefit of purchasing one of these houses may now finally be falling.