Why do so many new apartment buildings seemingly look the same?
Boxy mid-rise structures known as “podium” apartments have cropped up across the country. From Nashville to Los Angeles, the structures look the same – typically including retail stores or parking on the first floor – which draws the ire of neighbors and some architecture critics who find the buildings bland or downright ugly.
“I think the homogeneity we are seeing today is similar to what we’ve seen in the past, but the forces driving it are probably somewhat different,” says Executive Master of Urban Planning Degree Faculty Director and architect, Liz Falletta. She cites zoning, building code, and institutional capital as major factors in determining the layout and architecture of new apartment complexes. “These buildings are often built to sell to large real estate investment trusts, so when anything’s a commodity like that, making it similar across examples is desirable.”
Falletta argues that given the current housing crisis today, it is important to ‘just build’. “The longer we spend arguing about what it looks like, the less housing gets built…we need to come to terms with this one way or the other because otherwise we’re doing the younger generations – who are experiencing this housing crisis more acutely – a big disservice.”
While podium apartments can be built quickly, Falletta says these projects face backlash for all looking the same, “The sameness is an attempt to reduce costs and build faster, but it’s not being received that way.”
At the end of the day, Professor Falletta still seems hopeful about these apartments. “People are going to live their lives here and significant things will happen in them, so they’re going to weave their way into people’s experience and memory. People are going to forget that they were generic because that’s not going to be the most important thing anymore, right? Because they’ll be embedded into the history of people and place.”
Read the full Q&A with Liz Falletta.