“It is hardly possible to expect that many really different types of dwellings or their buildings can be added at any one time. To think they can be is wishful thinking. There are fashions in building. Behind the fashions lie economic and technological reasons, and these fashions exclude all but a few genuinely different possibilities in city dwelling construction at any one time.”
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities page 216.
A lot of people complain about "cookie-cutter" architecture in Minneapolis. French chateaus are cookie-cutter. Gothic cathedrals are cookie-cutter. Richardsonian Romanesque buildings are cookie-cutter. Being cookie-cutter per se isn’t bad, because at any given time in any given culture, there were prevailing architectural trends.
Some cookie-cutter things are bad, but not simply because they’re cookie-cutter. In the ’90s and ’00s, the McMansion was very popular. The economic causes of this trend were:
- expensive freeway projects that paved over the graves of urban working-class and minority neighborhoods to provide quick and easy commutes for citizens who happened to be whiter and wealthier,
- single-use zoning and mortgage regulations that made it easy to get money to build subdivisions, and
- the reverberations of explicitly racist housing policies.
Some effects of this trend are:
- higher demand for these underfunded freeways,
- car-dependent landscapes (and concomitant decline in walking and biking), and
- ecological disaster.
McMansions are cookie-cutter. New apartments are cookie-cutter. That doesn’t mean they’re both bad.