We recently had two interviews with families about their houses. We really like both families: great people, savvy professionals, strong parents and good neighbors.
When it came to their existing buildings, one in the suburbs and the other in the city, the approach could not have been more different. The suburban family had lived in Japan and were in awe of Japanese land use and design. In that context, they thought their four bedroom house was actually too big. They had certain goals and dreams for their home. They were still open to making it bigger to achieve what they wanted but sticking with the same size or even making it smaller, they thought, was a reasonable approach.
The city family bought a row house and automatically wanted to make it bigger. "We know what we want and it's bigger."
"Why?" I asked.
"It's not big enough." They replied.
Compared to what? I thought. From their description, they wanted to make a loft space out an historic row house. Why not buy a loft instead? It would be cheaper, for starters, I thought.
We were challenged by both responses.
We found one to be more thoughtful and more in line with what we do than the other. (Look at our projects the House for the Dinner Party or the LightBox for confirmation.) This approach borrowed from Japan may fly in the face of what our culture values but the Japanese are today's sustainable leaders. The Japanese live beautifully in spaces that many Americans would initially reject but I think could learn and borrow a great deal from. It's foremost about quality over quantity. There is no Japanese expression for "Supersize me!" There's only the Americanism.
Please have a look at Columbia University's Vishaan Chakrabarti's talk (above) on land use and real estate in the United States. He compares Japan's tightly knit farm communities with the spread out, Jeffersonian ideal of the isolated farm houses surrounded by open fields. Which has a smaller carbon footprint? Which fosters more effective communities?
makeArchitecture believes that, sometimes, less, but BETTER can be a more productive strategy in answering the question:
"How do you want to live?"