Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jumbo Boxes All the Same

I like to gripe about the floor plans that are written up in the Star Tribune's Sunday Homes section. Today's paper brings readers a more coherent critique of today's home-building milieu from the out-going dean of the architecture school at the University of Minnesota.

Tom Fisher notes that there were 430 houses on the recent Parade of Homes, and 427 of them had multiple gables. They have, he writes,

an almost mind-numbing sameness..., with asymmetrical facades, sprawling floor plans, and big roofs, with gable-on-gable-on-gable. Even the lowest priced home, at $142,100, features the seemingly mandatory gable-on-gable look, as if a kind of architectural gang signal.

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against gables. But most of the gables on the houses in the Parade of Homes serve no purpose whatsoever, except to increase the cost of construction, the expense of the roof, and — worst of all — the likelihood that their multiple valleys and flashings will someday leak.
And they put all of that gabling in the front:
Most of the Parade homes literally put up a facade. Walk around them and you will often find much plainer side and rear elevations, as if “curb appeal” has become all that matters, with much less attention paid to what the neighbors see or think.
The gables are often flattened against the massive roofs. I couldn't help thinking about the faces of Persian cats, from the way Fisher described the look.

Worst of all, only two houses on the tour "came in under the affordable purchase price of a house by a family of four with our area’s median income." Often the garages are larger than the average home of 50 years ago.

Variety is what people want in housing stock, Fisher concludes, and affordability is what they need. It's time builders started giving it to us.


Star Tribune photo by Jim Gehrz. 


P.S. Today's Sunday Homes section featured a house plan that looked very similar to the photo (although it only had three or four gables). It also has a master bathroom as large as the master bedroom and the most illogical arrangement of the secondary bedrooms I think I've ever seen in a modern house plan.

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