What do lofts say about us?
Loft living is "part of a larger, modern quest for authenticity" in ways new construction is not, says Zukin, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and City University Graduate Center, and author of the lifestyle bible, "Loft Living; Culture and Capital in Urban Change." Lofts are "organic," not pre-fab, and because they are both yesterday and tomorrow, they provide "landmarks for the mind," Zukin writes.
The article also touches on the Jane Jacobs theseis of the life-cycle of a neighborhood.
Loft living did not always mean luxury. In New York in the 1950s, lofts became popular places for artists. They were ragtag spaces that cost little but had plenty of light and air.
But as artists became celebrities and held parties in their homes, the upper and upper-middle classes were exposed to high ceilings, big windows and industrial artifacts. As modern art became more accepted by the masses, so did the desire to copy the artist's romantic lifestyle. So what does the loft craze say about current times and the people who populate them?
A dissolution of formal relationships, gender inequities and walls between work and life, for a start, according to Ritsuko Ozaki, research fellow at the Innovation Studies Centre of the Tanaka Business School in London....
"My respondents stressed that they shared household chores and that it was important for the female partner not to be excluded from social occasions they had in their home," she said in an e-mail. "Therefore, the open-plan layout can be seen as a reflection of new socio-cultural values [e.g. less unequal conjugal roles, less formal relationships among household members and more interaction between household members] of a certain group of people."
And it notes that those who started the craze can't really afford them anymore:
Despite the iconoclastic tone to the loft sales pitch, it's no secret that those who started the trend, artists, are often no longer able to afford those very spaces.
And while many loft livers say they want to live near unconventional people, most of their neighbors will eventually be as fairly conventional as they are.
While small, warren-like loft spaces can be found in places such as the Franklin Lofts for as little as $130,000, most are priced for a vastly different clientele: those who can afford $250,000 to more than a million dollars.
And so, ironically, the search for "authenticity" pushes out those who made a neighborhood authentic in the first place. This is also part of the cycle Jane Jacobs wrote about. They move on to a new, cheaper place.
I think developers could help maintain the autenticity of their loft developments by reserving a certain number of units for artists and other interesting characters at a subsidized rate. Also, if they incorporate small shops into the ground level of the development, they could make live/work units cheaper and therefore encourage more creative people to live in the unit. I think others in the loft would appreciate this and pay for the extra value of living in a continuously interesting neighborhood.