In this smart critical essay, Kate Wagner, the writer behind the popular blog McMansion Hell, examines the McMansion: the uniquely American, 3,000-square-foot-plus, made-to-order home that’s a “durable emblem of our American way of life.”

Wagner explores the aesthetic of the latest generation of McMansions (from manufactured modern farmhouse to Disneyfied Craftsman), the evolution of its floor plan, its enduring popularity, and its alternatives in a time of environmental crisis.

We need, quite literally, a revolution. And every revolution, lest we forget, is an architectural revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought about the dawn of modernism; the Russian Revolution initially saw the demise of bourgeois opulence in favor of Constructivism. The French revolutionaries looked upon the palace of Versailles with disgust, for it represented everything loathsome about monarchist French society: inequality, waste, and excessive filigree. So, too, under increasingly dire material conditions spurred by climate change and intersecting political catastrophes, will we look upon the McMansion. Maybe sooner than we think.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.