Forget the white picket fence. Today’s American dream is more about the home that lies beyond the fence — the place where dreams are nourished, lives are enriched, and memories are made.
But what is “home?” And how has the changing concept of the home influenced architecture over the last 50 years?
For award-winning architect Treff LaFleche, AIA, there has never been a more exciting time to be in architecture.
“If you really want to simplify the meaning of architecture throughout the ages, it all revolves around this concept of dwelling — of trying to find a balance between the poetics of living in an uncertain world and the need to provide a place to live,” LaFleche says. “And today’s architects have a great opportunity to explore the ever-changing fundamental human conditions of how we dwell.”
The evolution of the American single-family home is accurately captured in this graphic from The Washington Post. Key changes undoubtedly revolve around shape and size, but there’s more to the story. Today’s homes are also a reflection of culture — what people value and what inspires them.
“Changes in technology, along with changes in culture, have led to a feeling of openness — that most of us want our homes to feel much more open than ever before,” LaFleche says.
Homeowners increasingly value customization, thanks to inspiration from the work of architects being highlighted on popular home improvement TV shows and social media. As a result of this DIY movement, rooms no longer dictate our experiences; the modern homeowner wants the freedom to make rooms match their lifestyle.
This cultural shift has impacted not only the type of projects LaFleche and his team work on, but also the way they approach each project.
"Many of our clients come to us and they want us to create a custom home that captures the nostalgia of what they grew up knowing, but that also embraces the present and how we will live in the future,” LaFleche says. “It’s a wonderful experiment, but as an architect of the 21st century, that means you have to be passionate about solving problems. In the end, that’s essentially what we are — problem solvers.”
Researchers are already forecasting how future home trends will impact architecture, but no matter what changes, the way LaFleche sees it, one thing is clear: “People will always come first. Then there is the place, which comes second, followed by the details of the problem that needs to be solved. When you put all three of those together — that’s when you can develop a real solution.”
See more of what LaFleche has to say about the concept of dwelling and what he’s learned since building his first home while serving in the Peace Corps.