“Mass-market production and the commodification of housing has led to a ‘flattening’ of design into a limited set of bland, homogeneous options” writes Diana Ionescu for Planetizen.
Once upon a time, houses used to have unique features. Today, if you drive around any American city, you’ll see neighborhoods full of cookie cutter homes and rows of surprisingly similar, cheaply constructed apartment blocks. Architecture critic Mark Lamster, from Dallas Morning News, writes: “To call this ‘architecture’ is an insult to the art. Rather, think of these buildings as spreadsheets bumped up to three dimensions.” He calls this “The Flattening, a gradual draining of character from just about every corner of our lives.”
How did this happen? Cookie cutter suburbs are not new, but the trend seems to have accelerated. The status of houses has changed from family home to commodity. This has led to their design being driven purely by economics. Builders who want to appeal to a wide range of buyers, to embrace the demand for greater efficiency and to use the cheapest materials available, now favour quantity over quality and character.
Will this shift be kind to us in the long run? We think not.
For economic and sustainable reasons, we need to shift our focus to long-term growth of cities. This means designing and building a variety of housing types for the ever-increasing variety of family types. And it also means designing and building to improve our cities, making them delightful places to live, not flattening them.
Image by BrianScantlebury licensed by Canva