Over 25% of homes in America have a three-car garage, one of many interesting facts gleaned from this Architecture
magazine article, 'The Family with the Biggest House wins.' McMansions
, as these uber-homes are now called, are proliferating like the eponymous burger joint.
There's a fair bit on the web about domestic gigantism, but no-one's really taken the subject in hand. This
site, for example, is little more than limp satire. However, we especially liked Sandy McLendon's anguished piece on Jetset Modern
, describing his visit to a friend's spanking new McMansion and the struggle to admire it with tact.
Here in the UK, where there is an estimated 360,000 hectares of previously used - or 'brownfield' - land available for development, we're not quite up in this league. Despite all that empty space, and the seemingly insatiable
market, house-builders still yearn for a nice, unsullied field which they can then fill with five-plus bedroom, 'Georgian-style', hand-crafted luxury homes. A small, but by no means comprehensive, selection of some of the worst offenders: I
Depressing, isn't it? Ironically, the glazed, blank stare of suburbia has been lightly brushed with a certain hipness in fashion circles. Think, perhaps, of the soft glowing photography of Sophia Coppola's Virgin Suicides
, romanticising a certain time and place, or the photo-story in the latest issue of Another Magazine
, where homes, drives, muscle cars and quotes from Rod Serling's monologues in The Twilight Zone
are juxtaposed in a meaningful, creepy and oh-so-fashionable way (actually, it might have been Pop
magazine, but these hefty fashion tomes tend to blur together somewhat).
We much prefer the work of Andrew Cross
. His Middle England
series certainly isn't all about big houses, and it's very UK-specific, but the pictures capture that indefinable suburban feeling. He also likes trucks
Related. The National Brownfields Project
, together with the National Land Use Database
are two initiatives that aim to redress the balance and put new development in the most logical places. Sadly, both sites are pretty impenetrable, and look more like developer's tools rather than something one could just pop into, for example, to find a site. As one might expect, useful tools like Plotfinder
want a bit of your cash before you get any info. Even a site like RUDI
, the Resource for Urban Design Information, demands an annual subscription. (Also relevant, interesting article
by George Monbiot about the difficulty of constructing low-profit, low-cost homes instead of one-off, profit-stuffed, 'manor' houses).