Where is “Housing” headed?

3 Dec

Recently, I introduced you to a young architect named Jeremiah Russell that lives and works “out Jacksonville way”…

…who is entering the ISBU fray.

I’ve spoken to him at length lately and it’s clear that we’re going to see a lot of him around here. So, I thought that it might be a good idea to ask him where he thought housing was headed.

So, I give you Jeremiah Russell’s Housing Prophesies revealed— the world of sticks and stones… from a young architects perspective.

Tomorrow’s Home Today

I was once told that the two greatest professions to be in are Architect and Bartender (I’ve already got you wondering where the heck I’m going with this don’t I?). And the reason is that in both cases people come to you, mostly, when they are in a good mood, when they are at their happiest.  This isn’t always true for bartenders, as I can attest to first hand, but I think the statement has merit for Architects, especially residential Architects.

“The Fountainhead” 1943

When a client comes to you they are coming to you with a vision for their new home.  And at the beginning the client and Architect both view the project like watching a small child grow and become a proud and productive member of society (all the while not thinking about the bitchy teenager they’ll be for most of that “growing up” time).

This brings us to “what does the home look like today?” Do the traditional ideas about “home” still apply in today’s technologically advanced world of iPhones, laptops, microwaves and flat screen tv’s? If the traditional home is no more, what replaces it?

What does tomorrow’s home look like today?

Since World War II, the mainstream residential market has been dominated by the suburban “cookie-cutter” tract home.  These being your typical 3/2 on a 1/4 acre site stacked in neat rows creating the most antiseptic and sterile living environments I’ve ever seen. Not to mention forcing an increasing dependence on the automobile for transportation, which in turn muscled out mass transit in the cities for commuters….but I digress.

image courtesy of google

The “home” for many years followed predictable models of a segregation of the various functions of the home.  Public/private, utility/leisure, inside/outside, etc.  This lends itself very well to the “form follows function” argument that I’ve talked about here.  Now, many will argue that the home has gone through many iterations over the last century or so at the hands of Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and others in the Prairie School or Le Corbusier and his “machine for living” and the International Style…the list goes on and on.  But, these Architects and these architectural styles do not represent the mainstream body of work.  They are exceptional and limited in their sphere of influence at their time.

Le Corbusier – Villa Savoye

Fast forward to today and things are starting to change.  You still have the big box retailers (as I like to call them) like Ryland or Lamar or KB Home.  These are the large tract developers that continue the tradition of the 3/2 on a 1/4 acre lot….antiseptic, sterile, no personality.  But any cursory search on the internet will show you hundreds of Architects and Designers showcasing and building “modern” homes, or maybe better described as “alternative” homes.  These include the gleaming and screaming, sexy, hyper (I hate the word “uber”) modern homes you see in movies (see Iron Man) or on the cover of magazines or in car commercials (see every luxury car commercial ever made) which makes for great publicity but does little to elicit a reaction from the average homeowner who may be interested in something more interesting than the latest Neo-Mediterranean/Spanish/Colonial Revival option out in the suburbs.

Once you get through the glitz and glamour of popular modern architecture, you’ll come to find that there truly are “affordable” options, other than the crap being built in the suburbs, that doesn’t include volunteer labor or donated materials and equipment.

With the advances in construction technology and materials homes are being built cheaper and more efficient than they were ten years ago.  These technologies are also allowing for smaller and more space efficient homes thanks to Architects and Designers willing to rethink how each function relates to another.

image courtesy of google

As the baby boomers and empty nesters are easing themselves out of the work force and into retirement they are faced, most often, with living in a home that is much larger than they need.  At the same time my generation (the Gen x,y,z,1,2,3-ers) are seeking something more.  We’re thinking about the environment, we’re thinking about our energy bills, our water bills; we’re thinking about what happens when we no longer own our home:

Can it be adapted to a new family, can it be recycled or upcycled and repurposed into something new?

These issues more than any others are what is driving the change in residential architecture today.

So where does this leave us?

Now more than ever, would-be homeowners are seeking out the advice and services of Architects and Designers (like myself and many others) that can offer low cost, high value, high efficiency designs that can be built quickly, cheaply and use less energy/resources in the daily operation of the home.

We have reached a time in architecture where the home truly is the machine for living (Corbusier be proud).


Jeremiah Russell, Assoc. AIA


r | one studio architecture

2104 Gilmore Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32204





5 Responses to “Where is “Housing” headed?”

  1. Madrigorne December 3, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    My house is the one in the middle of that suburban hell…

    • Renaissance Ronin December 3, 2010 at 8:20 am #

      Ah crap…

      That means I have to retarget the missiles… 😉

      It looks pretty gruesome from above, doesn’t it? HOW can we live like this?

      And HOW are you doing? We worry about you. 🙂

  2. Jeremiah December 3, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Madrigorne, lets raise your suburban mcmansion and put up a gleaming isbu modernist utopian abode!

    • Renaissance Ronin December 3, 2010 at 8:39 am #

      Um… Where we gonna “raise” it to?

      I don’t know about you, but where I’m concerned… “lift with your legs” only goes so far… 🙂

      Your words “gleaming isbu modernist utopian abode” made me think of that old movie; “Metropolis”. I know what I’m watching today! 😉

      Okay, back to “razing” my son… 🙂

      • Jeremiah December 3, 2010 at 8:51 am #

        raise, raze, rays, it’s all the same thing really. 😛 Metropolis was actually part of the curriculum in my 20th century arch course in college. LOVE that movie. Not just architecturally, but politically as well. Says so much without any words whatsoever. BRILLIANT!

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