What’s a McMansion — and how can we prevent more of them? | Kate Wagner | TEDxMidAtlantic
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What’s a McMansion — and how can we prevent more of them? | Kate Wagner | TEDxMidAtlantic

August 14, 2019


Translator: Lynn Wang
Reviewer: Nada Qanbar First of all, I’d like to apologize
to anyone in the room who considers themselves
to be architecturally sensitive. What you’re about to see may upset you. So, the number one question
I get in my inbox all the time is, so McMansion hell,
what the hell is McMansion? So, it’s pretty easy. I’ve narrowed it down
to a couple of factors. First of all, they are oversized. That means there’s over 3,000 square feet which is 500 feet more than the highest
national housing average. So, AKA that space, as you can
see here probably 26 children. (Laughter) And the other thing is,
if you look at this house, which is quite lovely, (Laughter) I’m sorry. This house probably has
three media rooms, seven bathrooms with a garden tub,
and a chandelier and whatever, but it doesn’t have a front porch
and I cannot find the front door. (Laughter) Also there’s no lawn So, that leads to my second point,
they are poorly designed. So, that means there’s no respect
for form or scale or other things that people in the architecture would call
‘the basic rules of architecture.’ So, as you can see here, this house looks like
it was designed by someone who maybe saw a house
once in their life, but either had some sort of visual issues or was wearing kaleidoscope glasses
that you get during Halloween. Even worse these poorly designed houses
are cheaply constructed. So, I will get to that in a second. But, I’d like to point out that
this is an engineering marvel. This is a house that is a wood frame
covered in different types of foam. (Laughter) So, and finally, they are disrespectful. (Laughter) So, you have to feel really bad
for the poor folks in these little houses who on longer have
any natural light in their homes. It is a dark time for them
as it is for all of us. So, basically they are
fundamentally bad architecture. Now, even though
I’m dressed impeccably well, I’m not the gatekeeper of what is
and is not good aesthetic architecture. But, we’ve been talking about these
things in architectural history for thousands of years
starting with Vitruvius, the great-great-great
-granddaddy of architecture. Sorry art history majors,
this is going to be boring. So, Vitruvius said that architecture
should be three things, right? It should be durable, it should be useful
or functional, and it should be beautiful. And McMansions are well,
you know, none of these things. So, let’s start with durable. So, through most of human history
houses were built to last generations, that means that you
were born in the house, had kids in your house,
died in your house, and then your kids had kids
in your house and died in your house. AKA, they were permanent. That changed in the 1980s with access to
cheaper construction methods and materials and also in deregulation economies, etc, causing a huge housing bubble,
right? That we all know of. And basically these houses
weren’t built to last 15 years, because they were built to have the most
amount of space for the lowest price, and people didn’t really care about
how long they’d last anyway because they were going to live there
for maybe six years, maybe less because they were going to flip that house
and make, like, a million dollars. A million dollars. (Laughter) And they would be on the next house
before you ever knew it, so it was not their problem anymore, but we all know how that ended. So that brings me
to another part of durability- they are not aesthetically durable. That means that certain
house designs like you know, you have the box, and the box
has a roof and the roof looks like this, and this is the house that every child
draws, this is your idea of the house. These houses, of course,
as you can see in this case, this is a house that is got water damage,
and the balconies don’t lay anywhere, you can actually go out open those doors,
you will fall into your yard. (Laughter) These were just trends. People saw stuff like this on TV
and said, “I want that on my house.” And so they’re not really
aesthetically durable because they were built on these trends, and when the trends ran out, they would be onto
the third house or the fourth house because they were flipping
and making millions of dollars. So, according to Bloomberg now,
these houses aren’t selling well. And houses that are smaller,
you know, like normal people houses, built for normal people
not giant cars to live in, are appreciating
at a much higher and faster rate. And so we are gonna move on to useful.
What does it mean for house to be useful? So there are primary uses for a house. One is to keep us,
you know, out of the elements. Like you saw in the last example, it’s not doing a good job of that
with the water damage in the missing deck. Oh, speaking of the elements, imaging trying to heat
and cool that house. So you can’t even stay warm or cool
without spending millions of dollars. (Laughter) But most of all, a house is
suppose to be our home. It’s a place for our sanctuary, community,
and being one with our families. And in a space that is designed
where everyone has their own room, and their own living room,
and their own dining room, and their own pool table? You don’t have to interact
with any members of your family. So trust me I would have
loved that in the seventh grade. But I think most of us
are the well-adjusted people that we are, because we’ve had to fight
with our siblings in our parents, and all these things that come
from living in a smaller-knit space. And when you rob that sense
of community from our homes, what real purpose do they have? But McMansions ignore both of these
purposes to focus on a new purpose, and that purpose was
the house is an asset, the house was now becoming
through series of, you know, deregulatory
economic policies, etc, a liquid asset, it was money,
it was no longer a place to live, and it was seperated from the sense
of place and space that we know and consider our homes,
and so beautiful. McMansions don’t follow
the rules of traditional architecture, but really love to use
the icons and the symbols, and shapes of the traditional architecture
like columns in windows styles, and the box with the roof, though the roof is three times
as big as the box. And in this case, you can see none
of the windows actually match. Some have muntains which is the bits
that separate the panes of glass, and some don’t, and most of all it looks like
it is a screaming animal. (Laughter) So, there’s no regard
for basic matching, scale, you know, the rules of architecture, because they were designed
mostly from the inside out, and mommy really needed
her cathedral ceilings in the bathroom. You know sometimes that meant you
had a roof on that looked like this. Okay what’s the point, right? Why do I even care about McMansions
if they are so horrible, and why do I write about them?
Well, it’s about education. 60 percent of people according to the U.S.
census bureau live in the suburbs, and not all of us have access
to the fabric of our cities that have buildings from different eras, and all their beautiful details,
all interwoven into an urban fabric. Most of us have to live with,
you know, McMansions. And so it’s about teaching
with what you have, and also they’re politically charged. They’re sort of the poster child
of the recession, and they are attached to concepts
like urbanism and sustainability and other things that
make up a better world. You might be still
asking, “Okay, well, why not talk about you know
good architecture?” Well why so negative? I started writing
about architecture in high school to defend buildings like this. This is the Goshen Government
Centre by Paul Rudolph, in Goshen, New York which is undergoing,
what I like to call ‘a murder.’ (Laughter). I discovered, in the fight
for preservation of late modernist and post-modernist architecture
which is the part that I like, if you were on the side
of “I don’t like this,” you have the advantage. People say, “Oh, I like this,”
and like, okay, but if you say, “I don’t
like this,” then like why? And if you don’t know why
you’re pretty much a jerk – but that gets people talking
and starts a disscusion and so in McMansion hell
I saw this opportunity to explore, because a lof people hate McMansions
but they have no idea why. They’re like, “I hate that,
it’s big and it’s ugly!”, but they don’t know what is
so ugly about it or why it seems so big, and that’s sort of where I come in,
and it brings me to my final point. It’s about the greater purpose. So my professor at Peabody
where I study acoustics has this saying that says, “The first step to good design
is avoiding the bad, then you can design the good, and the first step to avoiding
the bad is recognizing the bad.” It’s about looking at the world
through a critical eye, and the best part about being snarky
is that you are automatically critical. And so people can say, avoiding the bad, right? You don’t want a house thet looks like the ginormous thing that’s
on the screen here. This is literally the McMansion, it is a house that someone
took to their little mouth and blew up into a balloon. It’s like they took the nice house
with the cable and (Puffs) Now if you know I don’t like that,
and here’s why I don’t like that then I can start thinking
about encouraging other people and educating them about
why I don’t like that and they don’t like that. And maybe through this sort
of education and design, getting people who don’t care about
design to talk about design is another really huge step
in perpetuating better design. And so through using America’s
ugliest and most hated houses, I mean, I’m sorry. We can… (Laughter) In talking about them
in a way that introduces humor so it’s not, “I’m shoving my good design
down your throat, dang you!” We can encourage people
through discussion, through education, through empowerment, to be a greater force for change,
and a change towards a more beautiful, a more sustainable, a more inclusive, and you know, a better-looking world. (Laughter) Or at least, prevent them
from building more McMansions. Thank you! (Applause)

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  1. I find it hilarious to see how much raw anger and hatred she has against these homes 😂 out of all of the pressing questions and topics to explore in a ted talk and she chooses McMansions

  2. Kate you didn’t explain the derivation of the term of McMansion. I’m assuming that Mc is associated with the fast food restaurant owned by the red headed guy in the Clown suit. Where’s the drive thru? Would be a good observation.

  3. When you mix some facts with snark, plain disinformation, sounds like jealousy, and are just a miserable presenter you do yourself and your audience no justice. To assume that people would move into these larger homes for a short time then flip them is just a terrible generalization. In 1900 bigger houses would have been coined macmasions by the4 people living in smaller homes. Same in 1800. She offers an inaccurate perspective about home building. In her worldview if you live in a 3000 sf house, you live in a poorly constructed McMansion, unless, it is a 3000 sf constructed in 1850. Architecture and housing construction is disjointed sometimes but she is just a miserable and biased person when it comes to larger homes. Just say you don't like them and move on instead of characterizing the people that live in them in such a negative way.

  4. Mcmansions are like those homes that are built for a TV show, knowing it'll only be used for 5 years then can easily be taken down, and another show will use it.

  5. Kate Wagoner & the TEDx committees will determine what your dwelling space should be – they know best how to spend your money – Wagoner and TEDx are a part of the lgbtp mafia taking away freedom from mankind.

  6. This is part of why I am having a Japanese House with modern and traditional touches built. It is designed to LAST, it will be passed on in my family long after I am gone, it is functional, versatile, everything is useful, it is extremely durable, and beautiful. Also, it is designed to be a fun space from its inception. It is 1,484 sq ft. (basement makes it double but basements aren't included in sq. ft.)

  7. You are the most interesting and attractive woman I've seen!! Great presentation with great with and sense of humor 🙂

  8. I just came here from another video where she was discussing her hatred for McMansions. I love that she's making it her personal mission to destroy the McMansion one video at a time.

  9. I think my family bought a McMansion. But the neighborhood was largely middle class. It was a nice 2 story suburban house, but it did seem to be relatively cheap in qaulity. It served what we need it for. We only lived in it for 4 years.

  10. The problem as i see it is that these homes are built for the builder and banks not for families who live in them. That is for prophet through the unbridled lust of the of its covetous buyer. These homes are too larger and have a lot of useless elements. Similarly it is for smaller home developments like levittown . Often too small (two bedrooms) Again they are build cheaply for the builders prophet and not for the family's long term use. It's not only large homes but small ones too. It goes both ways. 1100 to 2200 sq ft home is all anyone ever needs. Lot sizes should be any size up to 3/4 acre. Large parking areas are necessary too. But often are left out to save on land cost.

  11. 10:00 *in my Baby Boomer-era father's voice after a few glasses of wine*
    "That shack on the right, so, so smol. Stay in school kids, or that's where you're ending up!"

  12. The one and only time a TedX talk featured a legitimate expert/intellectual, as opposed to propping up pseudointellectual BS speakers for the intellectual-wannabe audience. I love Kate!

  13. My grandmother lives in a McMansion, and what’s worse is that they are just as bad on the inside too. Some of the perks include
    1. A garage too short to park most cars in
    2. A laundry room without a door separating it from the kitchen
    3. A loft with a ceiling so low you can scrape your head on the roof at certain angles
    4. A breakfast nook too small for most tables
    5. A fireplace in the living room that does not work because of a design error
    6. No door between the master bed and bath
    7. The staircase to access the loft is in the laundry room
    8. A horribly laid out jack-and-Jill bathroom for the guest bedrooms to work
    9. The two guest bedrooms do not have access to their closets. The only access is through the shared bathroom
    10. The kitchen is walled on nearly all sides

  14. It's funny, but the rULeS of aRcHiTeCtUrE sounds kind of elitist. What are they? Do they serve a purpose?

  15. I love McMansions. I know, it shows poor taste but I can't help looking at them in awe. My house is 1960's Brady Bunch, so maybe that is why.

  16. She keeps going on about deregulation, if someone wants to spend there money on a 20+ KIDS. From what I see, she hates rich pepole. Yet, she is trying to become one.

  17. I am looking for an architect and a contractor to design and build me a solid home for $15,000 in Canada. I hate the useless spaces in cookie cutter homes and poorly designed bedrooms and bathrooms. They are not practical. Not to mention the price tag for cheap materials and poor workmanship. If there are any architectural students out there who is interested in doing a project and also contractors please contact me. I am one step away from being homeless and all I have is a budget of $15, 000 to build a home. Please help.
    Any ideas are helpful.
    I just want a forever home to pass on to my kids after I passed away and to know that my kids will always have a home and never be homeless.

  18. i always felt that houses shoudlnt have fake or faux peices on them. they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. i expect everything to work

  19. I work in a shop where we make high-end kitchens for big houses (California money flows into the Salt Lake valley like a flash flood). The silliest thing I've seen so far is a house with 16 sinks. There has also been a kitchen with two islands and the sink and refrigerator were more than 20 feet apart. No exaggeration. Participating in making senseless houses has been my bread and butter for many years, and I see the stupidity of it all before it happens. And it's still happening. Sorry but I need to make a living. The customer is always right.

  20. I have one on the street in back on me the foundation wasn't designed right its actually sagging the people were forced to move out till it's shored up

  21. "The rules of architecture"!?! This women seem very proud of her profession. A profession whom have for the last 60-70 years created horrible, depressing, soul-killing designs, and even today trying to kill any effort to create something better, more beautiful, more human.

  22. I live in a house similar to what she is describing. While it’s a nice home I can see what she’s saying. Especially about the oversizing and cheap construction.

  23. Only criticism/negative. Lead by example. Or, always be positive. Should have shown what a "good" "mansion"/residential house should look like.

  24. I never knew why my friends loved these kinds of houses and I just ugh no. I can’t. This puts it perfectly! And I never get why have shutters if they do nothing 😝

  25. I find it quite telling so many are going at her for her appearance. My bigger criticism is the harsh plosives on the mic, actually, maybe it's too close or maybe its her nervousness coming out.

  26. Sounds like a bunch of hate to me… Why can’t people live in what they want to live in? If you want to live in the city and experience older architecture which one day this (suburb) architecture will be old then do so… If you want to live in the suburb in a large home with a huge yard and lots of space, then do so. I don’t see why one person should get mad at another for the choices they choose to house themselves and raise their family in

  27. You know what though? I don't care if you don't like it! I don't care. I don't care that you're jealous of successful people. I don't care that you're trying to dictate how I spend my money. I'd rather have loads of space than live in some ex-warehouse "chic" apartment.

  28. The problem with McMansions is its all superficial and the people who buy then are buying into an illusion of success. If they were successful they'd be buying homes in already established exclusive neighborhoods, not large lower valued homes in the suburbs. I just see fake people with fake values when I see the suburbs and McMansions. I left the burbs a long time ago and much prefer having a smaller condo in an established part of a city during the work week and a large county home in the country during the weekend. At least people in the downtown core and rural country side are true to who they are and there roots.Its not infested with people that want to project something that there not..hence the McMansion.

  29. Pretty sure I live in a McMansion now. Grew up in a house whose size i never understood seeing as we always had 2-3 empty rooms. Parents paying a boatload in Mortgage for what… I hope that me showing them this video explains why this house was a bad investment. 20 years later and still paying the same mortgage.

  30. It's amusing that most criticisms of McMansions, their combinations of disparate past styles, lack of harmony, proportion, scale, being a result of funding exceeding taste, etc. echoes the criticisms of the Queen Anne style that preceded them by a century.  That said, the idea that a person who likes modern/postmodern/international style architecture criticizing any other architecture is hilarious…..

  31. She probably lives in a mcappartment. Taste and preference can't be measured one man's junk is another treasure.

  32. MCMANSION????
    I Do not want to Live in anything which sounds as if it's been Served thru a McDonald's drive-thru.
    Quick & Easy? 😨

  33. Please fix that mic placement, also the trump voice was funny once. Drop it please. All that being Saif I agree with you. My buddy worked on mcnansions. When you clase the front door every window would visibly shake. They are way worse built than my small home that's made of cinder blocks, and the roof is real lumber planks.

  34. I feel like McMansions look like some sort of ironic art piece in response to suburbanism and consumerism, but sadly they actually exist

  35. What’s the opposite of a mcmansion? It seems like these are the only houses I ever see, what kind of house am I supposed to buy?

  36. I want an extended version. I bet she could talk about this for an hour and I’d totally watch that talk.

  37. What’s interesting is that many of the beautiful houses of the Gilded Age were actually the McMansions of their time.

  38. I would rather live in a mcmansion than i duplex… So quit complaining. Suburbia suchs but not as much as poverty.

  39. OK, wait a minute… At the end of her talk, she says that she wants the world to be more "inclusive," and yet she doesn't want to include McMansions, the builders of McMansions, and the proud owners of McMansions. This is what happens when an opinionated Millennial goes public with her inconsistencies. If she doesn't want McMansions in her world, then she cannot also be "inclusive."

  40. To the people who think it's the companies' fault, not the home buyers fault, that's incorrect. The company may be partially at fault but the home buyers willingly bought the house and fueled the market for McMansions.

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