From McMansion to McMain Street

In attempt to design buildings that convey the complexity and scale of the traditional Main Street, we frequently end up with buildings that are a cartoon version of the real thing. Perhaps we are trying too hard?

April 28, 2019, 5:00 AM PDT

By Michael Huston


Housing Development

PeterVandenbelt / Shutterstock

Like the McMansion that attempts to mimic the complex roof massing of an entire French village in a single building, the "McMain Street" attempts to mimic the fine-grained, vertically proportioned facades of the traditional American Main Street—all in a single building. And, more often than not, like the McMansion, the end result appears contrived and inauthentic.

In large part, the ubiquity of this building type has been brought about by well-intentioned planners who encourage (or require) architects to disguise large buildings as an assemblage of smaller buildings. On occasions the illusion works, but more often than not, we are left with a cartoon version of Main Street. 

The article explores the prevalence of the McMain Street building and offers alternatives and recommendations on how to get better results when dealing with large buildings.

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