138 MODEL HOMES is part of the the ‘Architectures by Proxy’ exhibition of the 2017-2018 Willard A. Oberdick Fellow at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, Brittany Utting in collaboration with Daniel Jacobs.

The home is never innocent, never neutral. Utopian and speculative, the model home of the World Expo, the Trade Fair, and the International Exhibition is the prototype for a culture’s habits of consumption. The relentless frequency of the global expo phenomenon endows it with the ability to influence public policy and consumer culture, marking it as both an index of a society’s patterns of living and a measure of a culture’s collective desires. A pure spatial product in this setting, the model home is a construct of models, drawings, images, financial analyses, and slogans, each opportunistically adaptable to any rhetoric or purpose. An instrument appropriated by architects, politicians, and home-owners, the house has a history of being used for both radical social experimentation and the reinforcement of the status quo. The domestic interior is a space that can be appropriated to sanction an explicit way of life and inflect patterns of consumption, making the World Fair, the Exhibition, the Biennial, and the Trade Show ideal delivery methods for an ideology.  Today’s model home is a space of labor, a space of financial leverage, and potentially a space for political action.

Project Leads: Brittany Utting, Daniel Jacobs

Production Team: Madison Strakele, Brian Baksa, Michael Paul

Photography by Yojairo Lomeli


This new developer catalog of 138 MODEL HOMES constitutes the protocols for a new suburb, an alternative city in which to inscribe more varied forms of private and public life. These planometric permutations belong to a new category of domestic model—characterized by minimalisms and excesses, exotic layouts and redundancies. By reducing the home to a series of rooms characterized by specific furnishings and fixtures, the abstraction of the diagram allows us to decouple the home from the potency of its enclosure, its style, its aesthetics and iconography. 

In the 138 MODEL HOMES, the typological indifference to style allows for the plan and its associated slogan to open up to new modes of cohabitation, producing new structures of collectivity. How can the simple elimination of the hallway undermine the maintenance of privacy? How does the removal of the private kitchen from the home open up spaces of collective use and negotiation? How does the multiplication and redundancies of spaces for leisure or labor create new patterns of occupancy, use, and commerce within the home? How can the occupation of lot easements and the sharing of boundaries challenge conditions of property, access, stewardship, and consensus? If we minimize domestic infrastructures, can people begin to leverage the costs of ownership to decrease the financial risks while increasing the financial opportunities of the home? These unfamiliar re-arrangements of domestic rooms allow for homes with or without kinship structures; they make space for negotiation and bargaining, inevitably generating new hierarchies of power and territory; they enact alternative patterns of use and ownership to enable more radical forms of life.