Fight McMansions with Modernist homes

You don’t need a tiny house to fight McMansionsModernist homes can also fit the bill.

The reaction is much the same as the humdrum McMansions along Mr. Farrow’s Oakville street tick past the car window in a blur of beige.

Halfway down the long avenue, a first-time visitor to the Farrow Residence gasps at the sight of the sleek, low-slung Modernist abode.

Designed in 1962 and completed in September 1963, the Breuer-esque home hasn’t changed much since Mr. Farrow completed the last addition in 1973, when a summer porch and pool were added to the back. Before that, in 1970, when the couple’s two young boys were closing in on their teen years and needed more space, the original carport morphed into a bedroom wing, and a garage was tacked onto the other side. Not that you can tell: An architect rarely uses a heavy hand when rejigging his own vision and, in this case, it’s the same “old Dutch” bricks, same window configurations, same massing…

Peppered throughout the 3,000-square-foot home are Mr. Farrow’s intricate and amazing carved birds, a hobby that has kept the 1958 University of Toronto graduate “out of trouble” and “away from the television” (and perhaps out of wife Diane’s hair?) – when he wasn’t designing hundreds of hospitals, schools and churches.

There are numerous lines of attacks on McMansions but this one is a good example of solely criticizing the architecture. This Modernist home is not small (3,000 square feet) and not necessarily cheap (though the construction cost or the current value are not noted). Its key advantage over the McMansion is that is was carefully designed by an architect. Because of this, it is not like the “humdrum McMansions” and it has remained stylistically consistent even with additions and modifications over the years. Whether the architecture is enticing to many is not the issue – the article mentions one women who wondered why the home had no windows on the front – but rather than it is architecturally coherent.

That McMansions are dull and repetitive is a continuation of the long-running critique of suburbs that suggested similar houses (see the limited Levittown models) leads to boring people and neighborhoods. I haven’t seen any study that confirms this but rows of similar-looking houses can present quite a contrast to vibrant urban neighborhoods with a mix of buildings. Of course, you can also find repetitive urban neighborhoods like the new rows of apartments going up in Chinese cities or modernist housing projects built in the mid-1900s that didn’t turn out too well…

One thought on “Fight McMansions with Modernist homes

  1. Pingback: “10 anti-McMansion design commandments” | Legally Sociable

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