bigger houses / not-so-big houses It's the cliché heard round the world: We Americans love our SUVs, our monster houses, and our super-sized meals. Current housing statistics do back up the general notion that homes in the United States are larger than ever before. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average single-family home measured approximately 2,450 square feet in 2005, up from 2,080 square feet in 1990. It's not that families are getting any bigger. Rather, we're doing activities at home that we used to do beyond its walls, like watching movies or working (hence the addition of extra rooms like home theaters and home offices). And the spaces we already counted as necessities are growing in size. According to the “AIA Quarterly Home Design Survey” released in February 2006, kitchens and baths are both gaining square footage.
Yet we're a fickle lot. Just as the SUV has left its mark on the highways and byways of the nation, so too has the oh-so-cute Mini Cooper ridden into our consciousness. Among a certain subset of consumers, the 1998 book The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka, FAIA, stimulated a sincere desire for quality over quantity. Architects have long admired the staccato beauty of a well-done small house, and now it seems that many of their clients agree. As the sustainable design movement blossoms and people think more holistically about living lightly on the land, the countertrend toward smaller houses should only continue. Now if we could just do something about those enormous restaurant portions.
regional modernism / new traditionalism As Post-Modernism's heyday faded, architects all over the country tuned in to regional modernism. Inspired by local design heroes—O'Neil Ford, FAIA, in Texas, Pietro Belluschi, FAIA, in the Pacific Northwest, and William Turnbull, FAIA, in the San Francisco Bay Area, to name a few—many practitioners pursued an aesthetic rooted in local climate, vegetation, history, and topography. These regional modernists shy away from the go-anywhere Modernism of the International Style, often emulating humble agricultural structures like silos, barns, and sheds instead. As the built environment grows more homogeneous every day, firms are fighting back by doing work that reinforces an ebbing sense of place.
In a different response to the same issue, another group developed a new traditionalism. They resurrected much-loved classic house styles with floor plans for modern-day living, emphasizing appropriate proportioning and materials. Exquisite traditional residences from the likes of Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, and Allan Greenberg breathe new life into venerable house types. This movement influences production housing through New Urbanism. And new traditionalism's own educational organization, the Institute of Classical Architecture (now merged with Classical America) has grown substantially in scope and sway since its formation in 1992.