Serious Deja Vu! Why Do New Apartment Buildings Look the Same?

  • Author: Amanda Arnold
  • Posted On: September 2, 2021
  • Updated On: August 21, 2023

The USA added nearly a million and a half new apartment buildings to its housing stock between 2015 and 2019. In an era of housing shortages and high rents, that’s a pretty good thing. But there’s one problem.

These new apartment buildings all look the same. You know the kind: boxy, modern, colorful, and identical to every other new apartment build from the last ten years.

So, the obvious question is: why do all apartment buildings look the same these days? Have the world’s architects all simultaneously suffered a massive loss of imagination?

Or is there something deeper going on?

Let’s find out!

Space Quest

What’s one thing every city has in common?

If you answered, ‘crowded, densely packed urban areas without a lot of room for new construction’, you were right!

Even worse, that problem is compounded by zoning laws. Most cities reserve the vast bulk of their buildable land for single-family homes. The narrow strips of land left over for apartment buildings have to be used with robotic efficiency.

Perhaps the number one reason that the boxy, blocky apartment buildings we all recognize have become so commonplace is that they’re all built under roughly the same circumstances: a suffocating lack of space.

In these conditions, efficient use of space is king. That gives rise to the square, modernist living spaces that make up the units in new apartment buildings.

New Apartment Buildings Come at a Cost

The constraints on space only serve to compound the second key factor: cost. Restrictions on space and the high price of building in crowded cities mean construction has to be done as cheaply as possible.

The reasons materials, styles, and methods repeat so often in cities across the world? They’re the cheapest ones available. It’s much cheaper to use a tried-and-true template than it is to improvise some incredible feat of architecture that will require much more time for designers and builders to figure out.

This can, actually, be a good thing in the end. After all, anyone looking for apartments wants high quality at low cost. By using cheap materials and methods that have been repeated to the point of perfection, builders assure that the end product is both comfortable to live in and relatively affordable.

Of course, that doesn’t make them any more interesting to look out from the outside.

The Arc of History Bends Toward Acceptance

So there you have it, the key reasons that so many new apartment buildings look identical in the 21st century. It might, in the end, work out for the better. After all, we live in a time of too-high rents for too few houses.

It could be we come to look on these boxy new builds as the heroes that saved us from our housing troubles. And even if we don’t, well, they’ll soon fade into the background of their cities like everything else.

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Author: Amanda Arnold

Amanda has been working with ConstructionHow since 2021. Her experience spans over 5 years in the creative niche such as home decor and trends, landscaping, renovations, and custom architectural values. As a home designer expert, she has a keen eye for the latest home improvement trends with accurate facts that readers find impossible to ignore. Being invested in home-building trends is how she has gained her lucrative expertise exploring more to bring a positive ambiance for all homeowners (and even tenants!). Currently, she lives in a beautiful beach home, a source of fascination for her.