It’s not often when all of my wacky interests get to come together into something cohesive, but when opportunity calls. I will be traveling to Sweden to meet with various professionals in Swedish design and construction to understand why they became do damn good at creating spaces for their people. The hope is once I return back to the states is I can identify elements in the Swedish supply chain which could be low hanging fruit for US builders to implement into US construction.
First off, I need to preface with I am not a contractor, real estate developer, or engineer. My background lies in the fields of architecture, macroeconomics, and sustainable business, so the process to actually create a house was completely out of my mind before this project. I’m hoping that I can remain as “uneducated” as possible so I can avoid the high scale jargon and acronyms which exist in all disciplines. I want my research to be accessible and relevant for anyone and everyone, because in reality, housing is something that impacts literally all people. Whether you are a developer looking to get some money for food on the table, a contractor building a place to put food on the table, or a buyer looking to have a place to put food on the table, the places we inhabit impact more than simply the people living in them. If there is even a marginal spot for which the Swedish and American construction process could find synergies, that means greater housing accessibility for people of all socioeconomic statuses; a non-zero sum, only wins, go for gold, game.
While my academic research will most likely by extremely cut and dry, I want this blog to be a space for which I can speak candidly about my experiences and translate how this research could impact the average joe. My generation will and already is facing a housing crisis. The amount of income we are paying for rent is creeping further away from that 40% sweet spot, and current urban development is prioritizing luxury high rises. The population is still increasing and we, as a nation, need to tackle the future we are laying out for ourselves. Now, this problem of supply and demand gets even scarier when you throw in those two words no one wants to hear: wet socks. Just kidding, but also not: climate change. Rising waters, increasing droughts, spreading fires, and resource scarcity will only further the stress we put on our land use and development. To avoid the all to common doomsday talk, I’m going to give my econ-climate scientist brain a rest and let the architectury-activist side join the conversation.
I truly believe that every single person–even the Nickelback fans– has a right to a dignified living space. In my opinion, the profession of architecture has partly failed society in this aspect. When people in the US think of architecture they think of libraries and museums, not the spaces they inhabit a majority of their life in. This means that as an architect I have a huge opportunity to change the dynamic of how everyday people interact with some of their most intimate spaces. The first obstacle that needs to be overcome is the idea that architecture can only be accessed by wealth. Let me say this to all the millions of people unknowingly suffering in the McMansion Hell reality of the US: SIZE DOES NOT MEAN MORE. How we use our spaces is way more important than how much we can claim is our own. Therefore, the potential to use the Swedish prefabricated system to create dignified, affordable, and rational homes could be an answer to a lot of our problems. This means architects will need to design within the constraints of the prefabrication process. But I’ll let you all in on a little secret: artists love limitations, it makes the creative process so much less daunting.
I need to say that it is not all rainbows and butterflies on the Swedish design side. During my time in Sweden, I have noticed that homogeneity is a common factor in neighborhoods, which could be accounted for in the construction process. But my goal for this project is to understand how these two very different systems can come together to create a unified process for Swedish and American expectations.
So, join me on a journey of discovering how different cultures develop and inhabit the shelters they call home and exploring the future of what your next home might look like.