Architectural Ponderings

Variety, Variation or Just an Illusion?

During my graduation year I was a young enthusiastic and rather timid architect to be. I was not yet sure of my foothold and of how high I was to “raise” my voice. My graduation internship was on new ground: being abroad (cultural and social novelty) and in the largest architectural office environment to that date. I was reluctant to make a strong point unless I was 1000% sure I was right and knew how to back that up.
I remember one of the conversations I had with one of the primary architects of the office. He was giving me the tour of the project I was to further work on. Nothing fancy, just plain old independent houses within a lovely little neighborhood. He was very proud of how they succeeded in maintaining the individuality of each one and underlined several times how highly important is to have the houses different. I was thrilled to hear that, but seriously confused. The plans I was looking at had barely any differences. The facades had the same windows in the very same locations. The one thing that was obviously different was the attic window which presented a variation of circle, square and rectangle shapes.

The conversation stuck with me and time and time again was brought back into attention as I kept finding blocks of flats with differences in apartments purely for the sake of variation. The floor plans had obvious downsides, but hey, at least they were different.

The floor plans above can be found in the same building (completed around the year 2005).
• The apartment on the left has a clear path and division of spaces. The corridor is a highly valuable space in an apartment, however when analysed from an usability point of view it is a dead space. So the fact that it was kept to a minimum allowed for a far more efficient use of the space. Its location in the center of the layout also provided a clear and easy distribution of functions.
• The apartment on the right has an almost double amount of corridor space, thus a higher percentage of dead space as it is not wide enough to place any type of furniture. Due to the increase in corridor there is no more space for both a storage and a laundry in separate spaces. The kitchen space is reduced and rather crowded. The living room is smaller due to the increase in circulation corridors that are created by trying to reach the rest of the spaces. This is not an issue in the other apartment as the living space (+kitchen) are one space and have only one access point.
Though technically not wrong, the flow of the space through the bathroom and bedrooms makes me cringe. The second door from the small bedroom shortens what otherwise would have been a long trip to reach the bathroom but also decreases the available space for furniture.
The very first time I saw this floor plan I could not help but picture somebody in the early hours of the night (3-4 AM) running (while holding on to their pants) from the master bedroom through the living room (stepping on toys while trying to be awake enough not to hit the walls) to get all the way to the other side of the house to the toilet.

Technically there is no issue here. Both apartments function, both can house people and provide decent lives. True, it is a first world problem, but should we do something just for the sake of checking a box?

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