The creators of The Offset House discuss possible reactions to their plans to renovate McMansions:
It’s easy to imagine NIMBY night-terrors if a neighbor suggested building this, but architects might not appreciate you treating McMansions so reverently, either. Who did you want to offend more?
Neustein: We wanted to offend Australian architects’ sensibilities. We don’t want to offend any actual [inhabitants]. We’re trying to appreciate what’s great about suburban life, because someone needs to if many people live there. A lot of architects are out of touch with ordinary aspirations for living and want to impose things from the top down.
Has this idea of outdoor verandas in housing appeared in Australian architectural history before?
Neustein: It’s important to recognize that we’re not necessarily talking about bringing this type of suburban environment forward; we might be talking about bringing it backward.
It is suggested in the first question that any neutral or positive use of a McMansion might be abhorrent to architects. Is this really the case? McMansions are not typically paragons of architectural design: they can have poor proportions, present a mish-mash of styles, and are often mass produced. Additionally, their setting in the suburbs may represent to many all that is wrong with modern society. Yet, if bad products can be made better, why wouldn’t architects support this? Perhaps this first question is intentionally overstated to present two opposites. At the same time, it is rare to find prominent designers or architects who are willing to work with “ordinary aspirations for living.”