The heyday of the McMansion has been on its way out for quite some time – perhaps more by economic circumstance than by fashion of choice – but Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill is out to actively sway our consumption preferences. His latest project, LifeEdited, is “tiny huge design contest” that calls for a crowdsourced redesign of one spatially economic, 420-square foot Manhattan apartment: his very own.
The brief: create a design for a real urbanite, someone who works, eats, lives and entertains, and – most importantly – can dwell in the space with ease. Challenging requirements for the redesign include a queen-sized bed, an office built around a Mac 31” monitor and a 17” Macbook Pro, an entertainment system with in-wall speakers, a bathroom with the standard accoutrements and “perhaps a steam room”. Eco-living may, after all, be chic. By digitizing media, downsizing possessions, and adopting efficient, space-saving furniture, Hill argues that comfort and style need not go by the wayside when designing an ultra-low-footprint apartment.
The crowdsourced format of the contest is a welcomed bolster for much-needed conversation. In his recent talk at PopTech, Hill offered sobering figures illustrating the extent to which consumption has ballooned in the past 50 years. The size of the average American family has decreased, yet a need to house the growing amount of possessions has caused dwellings to more than double in size. The gluttony for space has spilled over to birth an entirely new service of personal storage, a $22 billion industry that accounts for more than 2 billion square feet of space.
Harley Earl’s legacy of exotic and bloated automobile designs may be to blame for the past few generations’ romantic notion of sprawl, but Hill’s project offers a hopeful promise of how today’s design elephant in the room – the Internet – can be used to shape our current societal values, starting with consideration of LifeEdited’s “jewel box” of a space.
Entrants can add their proposals now through January 10 on Jovoto.com, where they can incorporate public feedback to refine their design until the contest’s closing. $70,000 worth of prizes will be awarded to the best ideas, and the single Jury Prize winner of the best-laid plans will receive a contract to have their design realized next year by Hill himself.
Aileen Kwun is an MFA candidate in Design Criticism at the School of Visual Arts. She is the student recipient of the 2010 Winterhouse Writing Award for Design Writing & Criticism and is currently writing a thesis on the changing nature of the music video in the Internet age.