They are large, much too large. Their mix of architectural styles knows no limit. Different roofs and windows clash until geometry collapses. They don‘t care about proportion or symmetry. They have eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, a movie theater and a basement bar. They are very, very beige. They are McMansions, the U.S. mega-houses which spread from the 1990’s onwards.
Since 2016, Kate Wagner has collected the most grotesque among them in her blog McMansionHell, adorned with sarcastic comments, but also expanded with serious analysis. Her blog was so successful that she is now, at 27, a full-time architecture critic.
(C) Kate Wagner / mcmansionhell.com
When was the term McMansion invented, and what is your definition of a McMansion?
People think I invented it, but that’s not true! It was invented the year I came into the world, which was 1993. It was a term used pejoratively to describe houses that were big and ostentatious, but built cheaply, with mass manufactured and cookie-cutter materials. For me, the mission of a McMansion is to collect as many signifiers of wealth as is possible under one roof – the huge foyer, the chandelier, the movie theater room, the home bar. The integration of these signifiers is not entirely architecturally successful and manifests itself in these collage-like inflated buildings that are essentially designed from the inside out. These criteria describe not so much an architectural style but more a process of events and decisions that results in architecture. It’s more a cultural term than an architectural style. The accumulation of everything – land, wealth, space, stuff – is a very American phenomenon.