How Residential Architecture Got So Cookie Cutter

While it's fun to tease about the architectural shortcomings of most newly constructed urban residential buildings in the United States, the causes of its ubiquitous sameness reveals the depths of the country's housing crisis.
December 6, 2018, 6am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Alex Millauer

Patrick Sisson writes:

A wave of sameness has washed over new residential architecture. U.S. cities are filled with apartment buildings sporting boxy designs and somewhat bland facades, often made with colored panels and flat windows.

After posing the question to Twitter of what to call this new ubiquitous style of residential architecture, Sisson was met with a "goldmine."

Some suggestions seemed inspired by the uniformity of design in computer programs and games: Simcityism, SketchUp contemporary, Minecraftsman, or Revittecture. Some took potshots at the way these buildings looked value-engineered to maximize profit: Developer modern, McUrbanism, or fast-casual architecture. Then there are the aesthetic judgement calls: contemporary contempt, blandmarks, LoMo (low modern), and Spongebuild Squareparts.

But what to call contemporary residential architecture is less important than how it got to look so similar. According to Sisson, these buildings are a symbol of the contemporary housing crisis: a lack of developable land, rising costs (land, materials, labor), and an "acute" lack of affordable housing. The similar look of new residential construction in geographically disparate and cultural unique cities all over the country comes down to code, costs, and craft, according to Sisson.

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Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 in Curbed
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