Kate Wagner: What’s a McMansion – and How Can We Prevent More of Them? at TEDxMidAtlantic (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of McMansionHell creator Kate Wagner’s TEDx Talk: What’s a McMansion – and How Can We Prevent More of Them? at TEDxMidAtlantic conference.

Kate Wagner – TRANSCRIPT

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.

And the other thing is, if you look at this house, which is quite lovely, 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. 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. So, and finally, they are disrespectful. 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.

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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. 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. 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.

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