Friday, October 6, 2006

Masters of the McMansion

I've always wondered who designed houses for the nationally-known developers like Centex and Hovnanian. They're important people, because their designs are going to populate our suburban landscapes, and shape the way we live, for generations.

Today's WSJ calls them "production architects" in an interesting article about four of the superstars and the new trends that they'll be bringing to us soon.

Some of it seems like welcome news to me:

Now, with downsizing boomers and first-time home buyers poised to dominate the housing market for the next decade, [Chris Lessard] is looking for ways to eliminate wasted space. "I want to make houses that are as efficient as a boat," he says.

That means getting rid of two-story foyers and vaulted ceilings and resurrecting ideas from small, efficient homes from the '20s through the '50s, like pop-out dormers, galley-style pantries, built-in bookcases and closets tucked under the eaves.

Those are some of the features found in his Craftsman-style "1920s" collection currently for sale in the community of Brambleton in Ashburn, Va. The 2,500- to 3,400-square-foot homes with detached garages in the rear are being built by Miller & Smith Homes, McLean, Va.

But not everything these guys do is all that great:
If Southern California sometimes looks like Tuscany, that's partly because of Aram Bassenian. In his 36 years as a production architect, Mr. Bassenian has borrowed plenty from that rural Italian style, inspired by frequent trips overseas, and has popularized stacked stone turrets ...
... and the Tuscan style is here, too. I like turrets and towers as much as the next guy, but does every building have to have one? By my reckoning, we've got new Tuscan towers on Elizabeth's Pizza, towers at the Shops and Friendly, towers at the Village at North Elm, and more to come?

This is Greensboro, friends, not Tuscany. Let Greensboro be Greensboro, and Tuscany be Tuscany.

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