October 13, 2009

The past 100 years have seen major changes to the way that people view their homes, and the actual construction of our homes.

From the outside, many houses maintain the original architectural design of when the house was built, but the changes are vast when you look into the house. Below are 10 ‘BIG IDEAS’ that have helped to reinvent the contemporary home:

1. CURTAIN WALLS – Prior to the 20th Century, buildings were mostly created of brick and stone, with the outside walls acting as the main support structure. Steel frames and concrete pillars gave architects free-range to think about the form of buildings in a different way.

The invention of the curtain-wall allowed for big expanses of windows and large doorways bringing light into the house.

2. CONCRETE – The strength and ability to shape concrete moved houses away from the typical box-structure of 100+ years ago.

3. OPEN-PLAN LIVING – This shift, from formal to informal living, has made way for 1-bedroom+den 500 square foot condominiums. With the open concept there is little need for hallways allowing for more useable square-footage. By sharing space between rooms with no walls, we are able to further increase the liveable space of a unit.

4. INSIDE/OUTSIDE SPACE – patios and terraces are now an extension of our living space; the boundary between the indoor and the outdoor has become blurred, thus allowing for even more useable space at home.

5. MODERN APPLIANCES – A dishwasher that fits under a sink, and a washer-dryer combo without ventilation! Two great space savers that allows for larger ceiling heights (via less bulkheads), and more useable kitchen area and storage.

6. PREFABRICATION – from prefab houses to prefab concrete. Prefabrication is more efficient and greener than building from scratch on site. Further, with prefab, great design has become more affordable.

7. CONDO LIVING – Stacked 40, 50, 60, 70 storeys in the air, urban densification has brought downtown cores back to life.

8. HOME LEISURE – Think televisions and computers, and full media/entertainment rooms. Houses are now wired for technology, and as such the home has become a more leisurely space to live. Gone are the days of playing hockey on the street, or in our nearby neighbourhood park. Everything seems to be played online.

9. SUSTAINABLE DESIGN – Think green. Everything is turning green, from the paints we use to the type of flooring selected. Maybe this is not much different than 100 years ago, when the building materials for homes were locally produced?

10. UNDERGROUND PARKING – I love it! Snow or rain, hot or cold, I do not have to go outside! My car is parked 3 levels below grade and ready to drive. No more de-snowing my car in the morning, or turning it on to warm it up from the -50 degree weather outside.

Most of the above is taken from the book “The Iconic House: Architectural Masterworks Since 1900” by Dominic Bradbury and Richard Powers, which is published by Thames & Hudson.

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