From Engineering on February 09, 2009 in General
The East has longer American history. The West has more palm trees. The East has rolling deciduous forests. The West has towering evergreens and Rocky mountains. Homeowners from coast to coast take pride in their design, their cities, and their environment. Yet at the same time, a home in Boston is likely designed much different from a home in Los Angeles.
How and why are East and West Coast housing different? What, if anything, makes one better or more attractive than the other? In this post we’ll attempt to explore the markets, architecture, and environment on both sides of the Mississippi River.
Up until a few years ago, East and West both enjoyed an unprecedented housing boom. Unfortunately, both are now deep in the throes of a rapid economic downturn, resulting largely from a sudden crash in the housing market.
It’s hard to say if East or West has it any better than the other. After all, Florida and California, the two states taking the hardest hit, are geographical opposites. In terms of housing permits, declines were seen across the nation from 2005-2007, although southern California and western Arizona had the most widespread decline. Palm Coast, Florida had the largest decrease in permits issued at 86 percent.
There were pockets of increases as well, although few and far between. Most growth in the West was limited to central Washington and the small region in and around Missoula, Montana. There were several more localized increases east of the Mississippi, but they do not represent the overall trend and have most likely reversed direction since these figures were released a year ago.
There’s just no point in trying to separate east from west in market terms. The overall downward trend in the national housing market screams for unity, not division.
East Coast versus West Coast architecture is like old versus new. Eastern metropoles have centuries of design behind them, while many western cities may have but 50 years. The difference is palpable. The old brownstones of Chicago and New York clash loudly with Spanish-influenced, mission-style stucco peppering Los Angeles neighborhoods. Or contrast the long history of Connecticut colonials and Atlanta’s sprawling porches with the mid-century modern architecture so prevalent in Hollywood’s golden years. One would have to fly to San Francisco to find much architecture that reflects eastern origins.
Yet each region has its own style, and it’s up to homeowners to decide which better suits their preferences, whether it be the cooler colors of the arid-to-temperate west or the intricacy and age of America’s early years. The future of American architecture will be influenced mostly by one key factor…
I am by no means an architect or an expert in building design trends, but I feel confident in saying that environment will drive and inspire the architects of the future; for many it already does. Just like the housing market is slumping across the country, so green building is increasing from sea to shining sea. According to a report from the American Institute of Architects (via sourcecorp.com), the Pacific region is moving toward green building at a much faster rate than other regions, mainly due to progressive state and local governments and public support.
East and West both have their advantages, but the differences are moot. It is easy to fall in love with eastern architecture, but times are changing, and presently. The rapid move to green, energy efficient building will change the face of American (and global) architecture. Now the great architects will trade in large mega mansions of brick, stone, and wood for sandbags, straw bales, and solar panels. Housing in the 21st Century will not be inhibited by the Mississippi River.