Why do neighbors in established neighborhoods often have a visceral reaction to a modern home being built on their street? In all big cities today the most established neighborhoods occupy the more central geography of the urban territory. Simply put, they were constructed a long time ago when they were the newest suburb and now the city has grown around them and well beyond them. Those neighborhoods are usually populated with a healthy mix of Arts & Crafts homes, Queen Anne’s, or any number of Victorian style buildings. Then along comes some stranger who buys the house next door and they drop it to the ground. This alone can be shocking, and even feel invasive; but watching the new structure rise to become a dramatic juxtaposition to the rest of the homes can feel like an outright snub.
This is the challenge the new neighbor faces in neighbor relations. Is there a valid case to resist the modern design? Do longtime residents have any weight in mobilizing city officials to challenge this new build? Do they have the right to be frosty because the new neighbor went against the grain? Not a chance. But we see it time and time again so it must be human nature.
There is more to that modern house than what you see from the sidewalk. We are in the middle of a construction revolution with new materials and techniques being employed at an accelerating rate every year. This leads to new custom homes being unrecognizable by old construction standards. That 100 yr. old Victorian next door shares no genetics with the new modern build. Peel back the layers of those walls and the case is quickly made for demolishing the old.
Today people are very aware of the cost of energy bills when buying a home. Energy efficiency is a major driver of a home design. In addition, computer modelling allows us a greater understanding of the relationship between environmental factors, layout, window locations, roof overhang, orientation on the lot, and the comfort of the home. The modern aesthetic is very much informed by those factors. For example, large walls of glazing in strategic locations naturally lend themselves to a contemporary look. Or dramatic roof overhangs can purely be a utilitarian part of that modern home but people assume it’s a fashion statement. Then there are the ever popular flat roofs which are usually a design choice led to by building height restrictions, or in very dense neighborhoods, a claustrophobically small lot calls for a roof top deck because there is no backyard. There are countless more examples that we need not draw out in this post but suffice to say the modern movement is rooted in a practical comprehension of life style needs and is highly articulated to functionality and efficiency. Powerful modelling technology drives these new designs and that science is why the modern movement is not going anywhere. And besides who wants to look the same as everybody else!