Big houses and the fall of civilization

Having two bathrooms ruined the capacity to co-operate. Margaret Mead

I ran into this quote some time ago thinking about big houses and how – like everything, such as cars and wine glasses – houses have been getting steadily bigger over the last forty years. And, as we run out of resourses, I wonder if that will turn around.


About two months ago, Michele and I saw The Social Network. One of the inferances in passing – if that is the right way to say it – is that to get rich in high tech – really rich – you have to move to Palo Alto. Now that is not true, of course, but it does become closer to true if you replace Palo Alto with the inner Bay Area.  Or, probably, any urban/inner suburban area.

In Palo Alto, houses are not very big – partially because of small lots and tight zoning true – but, also, the majority of the homes were built before 1980. My guess is that the average house built in  Modesto, far from Silicion valley – even though much, much cheaper – is bigger than the average house in Palo Alto. Houses got bigger as the available land was further and further from the epi-center of the  bay area. Because they were so much cheaper per square foot, they were cheaper, period.

So we probably have a situation where the boss lives in a smaller house than somebody working for the boss. Not always – lots of bosses live in big houses in Atherton – but often. In my imagination, after a Chistmas Party at the bosses house in Palo Alto – and a very long drive home or expensive night in a hotel – the employee will start to think about living in a smaller house.

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