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USA Real Estate Blog

The Unbearable Sameness of Urban Apartment Buildings

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Image via Shutterstock

If you missed it, be sure to check out my podcast with Orianna Schwindt on the unbearable sameness of cities. Continuing with that theme, Patrick Sisson at Curbed recently looked into why so many urban apartment buildings seem to look the same.

Twitter query seeking to name this ubiquitous style was a goldmine. Some suggestions seemed inspired by the uniformity of design in computer programs and games: Simcityism, SketchUp contemporary, Minecraftsman, or Revittecture. Some took potshots at the way these buildings looked value-engineered to maximize profit: Developer modern, McUrbanism, or fast-casual architecture. Then there are the aesthetic judgement calls: contemporary contempt, blandmarks, LoMo (low modern), and Spongebuild Squareparts.

“Part of what people are responding to isn’t the building themselves, it’s that there are so many of them going up so quickly, all in the same places in the city,” says Richard Mohler, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington.

“At the end of the day, if you line up multifamily apartments from Boston, San Francisco, and Miami that have been built in the last decade, you’re going to see a very strong pattern,” says Scott Black, senior vice president of Bristol Development, a Nashville-based firm that develops apartments across the Southeast.

Good architecture should always respond to the local context. In the case of these buildings, the local economic context just happens to be the same in just about every major U.S. city.

The context is targeting the same young professional demographic who wants the same restaurants, coffee shops, microbreweries, and yes, apartment buildings.

While I notice that many apartment buildings look the same, different cities seem to be building different styles of single family type housing. A lot of it is schlock, but at least some cities seem to have semi-unique kinds of it.

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