Posts tagged with "mcmansions":

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Zillow slams popular architecture blog for using its photos of terrible houses

Update 6/29/17: McMansion Hell is out of legal hot water. Read the latest here. Update 6/27 /17: This post has been updated with comment from Zillow. A popular blog that skewers McMansions has temporarily shut down after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the real estate site Zillow. Kate Wagner started her blog, McMansion Hell, as a way to reveal (and revel in) the contradictions of America's aspirational domestic vernacular architecture post-1980. Specifically, she focuses on homes whose vast floor plans display luxury more than halfway down the road to ungainly excess: A typical post may feature fake columns sprouting around turrets and picture windows that shelter vast marble kitchen islands, double-sized foyers, and Trumpian glass chandeliers. A graduate student in acoustics at Johns Hopkins, Wagner taught herself about architecture, often using images from real estate sites to show readers how we got from this to this. Her aversion to jargon and embrace of image-based critique has earned McMansion Hell fans in and outside the architecture world. It's also apparently caught the eye of Zillow's legal department. Yesterday, Wagner posted a letter she received from the Zillow team on Twitter: The letter states that, by re-blogging photos with commentary, Wagner has violated Zillow's terms of use and infringed on the rights of the copyright holders of the images. It warns her to stop using images from Zillow and gives her until Thursday to delete all offending images from her site. In response to the missive, Wagner issued a statement, below, on the potential impact of shuttering McMansion Hell (right now, it's not dead; the domain is offline as Wagner archives content). She is currently seeking legal council. A representative from Zillow, Emily Heffter, clarified the company's intent in response to a query from The Architect's Newspaper. The email contained a message from Katie Curnutte, the company's vice president of communications and public affairs, to Wagner that explained Zillow's beef with the images:
[We] do not own the rights to many of the photos on our site, and therefore can’t give permission for third parties, such as yourself, to take the photos from our website for any purpose. We get them from brokerages and MLSs who are advertising homes for sale and through those agreements we have an obligation to protect the interest of the copyright holders who license the images to Zillow.
In a revelation that should delight fans of the blog, Curnutte emphasized that "we do not want you to take down your blog." Today on Twitter, Wagner said that a new post, using images in the public domain, will be up this Saturday.
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This Florida mansion by Chad Oppenheim is more like a sumptuous resort in disguise

AN has an exclusive look at a new home in Golden Beach, Florida designed by Chad Oppenheim of Oppenheim Architecture + Design. If we’re being honest here, the 23,000-square-foot home is really more of a resort masquerading as a private residence. Or maybe it's a private residence masquerading as a resort. Either way, the home is massive and packed with amenities. First, 699 Ocean Boulevard has a 5,000-square-foot spa that is twice the size of the average new home built in America. Inside the mansion-sized home spa is a steam room, sauna, arctic room (what?), treatment baths, and a sunken hammam room. There’s also a “spa pool with jets” and a “lap pool with a waterfall.” The very, very large home is comprised of stacked concrete volumes that are visually softened by overgrown vegetation and moveable vertical wood slats that act as a shading system. Massive window panes and openings connect the interior and exterior spaces giving the entire place a very open and airy feel. To complete the natural feel, Oppenheim plants a tall “living wall” of local and exotic flora in the main entryway. If at any point, this home—with its en-suite eight bedrooms—starts to feel a little cramped, there is always the 700-square-foot guest house next door. For the record, that guest is house is 200 square feet smaller than the home's main kitchen. “We worked really hard to make sure this home will enhance every aspect of your life–from pulling into this incredible garage to sitting on a second story terrace or a roof garden and opening the windows that retract automatically into the walls, really helping one connect viscerally to the place,” said Oppenheim in a promotional video for the home. The home is listed at $36 million so booking a few nights at a resort probably makes more sense. Looks like you're going to have to share the hammam room.
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Johnson′s Glass House: the Anti-McMansion?

Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, CT clocks in at under 2,000 square feet--tiny compared to the McMansions being built just a stone's throw away. The transparent house is widely known as one of the earliest and most influential modernist homes in the United States, but its size is also a lesson in sustainable living. Hilary Lewis, the Philip Johnson Scholar at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently hosted a conversation discussing how architects and designers can reshape public perception and build homes that are luxurious but small, like the Glass House. Lewis, who worked with Johnson for over twelve years and recorded his memoirs, noted that the house utilized interesting materials in unexpected places, from the brick floor and fireplace to the leather ceiling in the bathroom. The house also took full advantage of the surrounding 50 acres, said Lewis, who explained: "Johnson and David Whitney worked assiduously, removing trees and planting. It was a constant effort to carve a more interesting landscape. Johnson used to refer to this building as a permanent camping trip -- one with very expensive wallpaper." The talk was the first of a new weekly series called "Conversations in Context," in which special guests lead visitors on an intimate tour of the property. The program was inspired by the Glass House's legacy as a salon where Johnson and his partner David Whitney hosted conversations with the movers and shakers in art, architecture, and design. This week Lewis is also hosting an online conversation about how architects and designers can downsize the idea of luxurious living; go to the Glass House Conversations website to contribute your two cents!
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McMansion Town USA

This story is part of A/N's new blog series dedicated to exploring neighborhoods around the country El Monte, CA, about 20 minutes east of Los Angeles, is a gated community. Wonky chain-linked fences and rusty metal gates keep the residents in and the criminals out. Some say El Monte is an up-and-coming city. After all, the proof is in the posh homes popping up throughout the city. “El Monte … encourages quality housing developments through well thought-out architectural designs, use of high quality materials, and enhanced landscaping,” says the city’s official website. However, a walk through the city gives another impression. Many of the city's new housing developments look like slightly fancier versions of mobile homes parked on mounds of land, with little thought given to landscaping and aesthetics. These ornate McMansions look almost comical when compared to neighboring houses. They are available because residents are earning more nowadays. The U.S. Census reported its median household income to be $32,439 in 1999. In 2008, that number increased by nearly ten thousand to $42,363. Yet, the median household income in El Monte has not increased that much when compared to its neighboring cities: Temple City increased by $17,576, Arcadia by $24,168. Thus, although El Monte residents are able to afford larger homes, they can only do so if they choose to live in condominiums or condo-esque homes. Some of the stucco McMansions are an odd mixture of styles -- with faux shutters and stark, almost modernist lines and angles. Others attempt to be more stately, with Greek pillars, but these homes are punctuated with carbon copy windows that scream of a desperate attempt at stature. Most of these McMansions have a few square feet of greenery; the rest of the land is concrete. One McMansion does not have any landscaping, unless an out of place water fountain can be called landscaping. These architectural designs are anything but “well thought-out.” They look like monstrosities next to their neighbors. The smaller, traditional homes are hidden behind chain-linked fences and under Christmas lights left over from nine months ago, or perhaps even longer. Quite a number of El Monte lawns do not have “enhanced landscaping”: Many homes house mismatched groups of fruit trees; greenery; weeds; and splotches of green, yellow and brown grass. The new McMansions may give someone speeding down the residential streets of El Monte the impression of a city pregnant with potential, but El Monte is still a community crawling out of near-poverty.
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The Downturn of the McMansion?

Amid the anxiety, speculation, and real hardship caused by the ongoing economic downturn, the provocative thesis of this Washington Post article stands out, which, if correct, could hold a silver lining for architects. Reporter Elizabeth Razzi interviews housing historian Virginia McAlester about how previous periods of economic declines shaped consumer demand for housing. The answer is simple and somewhat obvious: the demand for small houses rises. Her predictions for this cycle are less so. While McAlester argues the downturn of Depression through World War II, and the resulting shortage of materials, led to the construction of smaller houses, specifically Levittown and its progeny, she argues that this cycle could lead to a different landscape. While she argues that McMansions, with their multiple gables and double height foyers, will fall out of fashion, they will not be replaced with rows of modest Cape Cods repeated in endless rows. She argues that some McMansions will be converted into multiple unit “manor houses.” New construction, she argues, will likely be more compact, attached and more closely located to shopping and other amenities. While a spokesman for the National Association of Homebuilders refutes some of McAlester’s predictions, he agrees that highly energy efficient houses will be increasingly in demand.
What could this mean for architects? While many architects design lavish, over-scaled homes, speculative builders, who rarely employ architects, dominate the McMansion segment of the market. Architects have for the past twenty years, been increasingly designing mixed-use buildings and districts, as well as compact, urban, and green projects. So it seems logical, then, that developers who are looking to salvage their unfinished subdivisions or respond to future demand may give enterprising architects a fresh look.