While smart home devices still promise a glittering, connected vision of domesticity, some British architects say the really fashionable addition to tech-savvy future homes may simply be a wall. According to an article in Dezeen, many architects and designers and forecasting the end of the open-plan era, due in large part to mobile technology and the increasing desire for privacy fostered by these devices. Deborah Saunt of DSDHA calls this in-demand adaptable floor plan "flexible-plan" living, while Mary Duggan of Duggan Morris Architects coined the term "broken-plan." Is this shift a natural outgrowth of the backlash against loft living and open-plan office spaces, or a not-so groundbreaking, buzzword-based return to a classic model of interior design?
The need for alcoves, private seating areas and the like isn't spelling an end to the demand for large family rooms and kitchens that can accommodate big groups, according to the article. Rather, the desire for "fragmented" space comes from the increased prevalence of working at home, and the need for room to have private screen time with phones or laptops. The backlash against open offices, both due to the fishbowl effect and the lack of privacy and focus, has been well documented. But is that really as much of a problem in the domestic realm, especially considering American homes have actually steadily increased in size over the last few decades?
Perhaps this broken plan idea is getting out ahead of what may be a larger shift in domestic architecture, and tapping into a wider uncertainty about where technology will take us. The drumbeat of tech firms discussing our soon-to-be wired homes may have gotten the story wrong: our homes won't gradually become more like our devices, but rather, our devices will start to shape the way that we delineate and divide space. That is, of course, if we're still wedded to more and more screen time. We've already seen some architects experiment with the idea of a theoretical space meant for digital detox. Perhaps that may become the hot addition for future homeowners.