Design by committee is usually a recipe for a hot pile of garbage. Design by a committee of two million? It’s not as bad as you’d think.
Hemnet is a real estate site in Sweden—it’s a bit like Trulio, a site where people go to browse homes and look at features and pricing in their area. Earlier this year, the site decided to analyse what 2 million visitors browsed over the course of a month’s worth of traffic, totalling 200 million clicks. What sizes were people looking for? What features did they like? Balcony or deck?
After parsing the data, they turned it over to the Swedish architects Tham & Videgård—who designed an actual home based on the data. You can think of it as the absolute mathematical mean of what the entire browsing populace of Sweden prefers, when it comes to design.
So, what does the finished product look like? Let’s start with the size. Hemnet says that the most-trafficked home size on the site is about 1,300 square feet, spread over 1.5 floors. “On average, Sweden’s most clicked properties have 3.8 rooms plus a kitchen,” they explain.
And how about the design itself? Unsurprisingly, people love open plans. Hemnet says almost 60 per cent of the houses people clicked on were open. The non-surprise continues: People love stone countertops, and prefer white cabinets and neutral-toned furniture. This is Scandinavia, after all, and people want what the Danes usually call hygge, or coziness, too: 54 per cent of the clicked-on houses had a fireplace, iron stove, or tiled stove. No one wants carpet, either—two out of three browsers wanted wood floors.
You’re getting the picture, by now: This is the architectural equivalent of a universal average. That’s both good and bad, really. This house is probably not dissimilar to what any given Swede wants in a home, but it’s also bland as hell. It’s a bit like what you get when you combine every image on the internet into a single composite: An unobjectionable beige square.
Is that a bad thing? Not really (except that it reduces the architect’s role to zilch, maybe). Even though this is a promotion for Hemnet, it also proves how big data has something to offer when it comes to design—particularly, off-the-shelf design, like prefab homes. The company says it even sourced the price of the home and its materials based on what browsers said they can afford, which converts to $330,727/£213,523. And it’s now working with the architects to turn this skeleton of a design into a real, actual prefab design people can buy.
It might not be unique to you or your family—data will never replace design completely. But this is proof that there’s room for it alongside a living, breathing architect, too.