An architect recently spoke at Dartmouth and discussed his thoughts about McMansions:
Cruz showed the audience his representation of “McMansions,” or luxury suburban residences, which have become a large part of the ideal American home. Cruz’s “McMansion,” exhibited at museums throughout the nation, is a small plastic model home placed in a box of mirrors. The image repeats into infinite space, epitomizing the monotony of traditional suburban landscapes.
Alternatively, citizens can come together to create new plans for their neighborhoods, Cruz said.
“The mythology of the American dream of ownership has become unsustainable,” Cruz said. “We need to rethink ownership, and rethink how a small house can become a small village.”
Cruz is well-known for his research on the Tijuana-San Diego border and most recently received the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award, which recognizes leaders’ efforts to improve economic opportunities. He is currently a public culture and urbanism professor at the University of California, San Diego, where he co-founded the Center for Urban Ecologies.
It sounds like Cruz defines McMansion in these ways: they are luxury homes, meaning they are expensive and have a lot of features, and they are monotonous (“cookie-cutter”) when placed with a bunch of similar houses in a neighborhood.
Here is a little more about Cruz’s 2008 work titled “McMansion Retrofitted” at the San Francisco Art Institute that emphasizes the spaces created in the suburbs by recent Mexican immigrants:
McMansion Retrofitted, 2008
Plastic model, pedestal with mirrors, and two videos
Courtesy of Estudio Teddy Cruz…
The areas of San Diego that have been most impacted by this nonconforming urbanism are concentrated in its first ring of suburbanization. At a moment when developers and city officials are still focusing on two main areas of development—on one end, the redevelopment and gentrification of the downtown area and, on the other, the increasingly expansive suburban sprawl resulting from an equally high-priced real estate project supported by an oil hungry infrastructure—it is the older neighborhoods of San Diego’s midcity that remain depressed and ignored. It is here in the first ring of suburbanization that immigrants have been settling in recent years, unable to afford the high rents of the downtown area’s luxury condos or the expensive “McMansions” of the new suburbs, though providing cheap labor for both.
Interesting – Cruz’s preferred neighborhoods sound quite vibrant and diverse. You can read more here about Cruz’s thoughts on how immigrants are changing neighborhoods in San Diego. Also, Cruz has in the past been involved with converting McMansions to multi-family housing (though this home is 70,000 square feet – more of a mansion or a castle).