Modern architecture represents a simpler, less cluttered lifestyle. Since the 1950’s, goods have become more affordable and people have been buying more and more stuff. The sizes of the houses had to increase to store all of the stuff that was rarely used or wanted. Walmart was the torch bearer of this trend.
With the rise of China as a super power, some people have started to question whether buying cheap goods is a good idea. The cost of real-estate has skyrocketed since the 1950’s and recently the population is moving back to the cities making smaller, simpler houses the fashion. “The Home for the New Economy” is one such exercise in speculation — a proposal that the future lies in denser, more walkable, modestly scaled communities. Marianne Cusato, who designed the Home for the New Economy, sees it as a rebuke to the ethic of the McMansion. “We’re not going to go back to 2005,” she says. “What was built then is not going to come back, and this is not a bad thing. What we were building was so unsustainable, and it didn’t really meet our needs.”
Some in the industry argue that buyers never truly craved all that surplus space and took it only because that was the way the marketplace measured the worth of their investment. “We have to get out of the dollars-per-square-foot mind-set,” says Sarah Susanka, an architect and author of “The Not So Big House.”
At the same time technology has developed better, bigger, more energy efficient windows and other materials used in modern architecture. “With Alpenglass you can environmentally tune a building or storefront. You can also simultaneously optimize daylight transmittance and address solar gain concerns by using the appropriate spectrally selective films.”
Nobody can predict the future, but one can hope that lessons have been learned and homes in the USA will reflect what is already in practice throughout the rest of the world.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 17, 2010 NY times: The Elusive Small-House Utopia