[Future of the Home] “Encanto” or the coming-of-age tale of a house
The latest Disney movie, Encanto, is not as much driven by a princess-like character as by an enchanted home. The Madrigal house is the core character and, to my eyes, the true heroine of the movie. I won’t spoil the plot here nor reveal all the magical gifts of the Madrigal family members (fifteen good minutes of the movie explain it well enough), but what caught my attention in the movie is the journey through which the house goes, evolves and finally reveals itself. In other terms, Encanto is the downright coming-of-age tale of a house! And having studied the home of the 2020s these past years, I was delighted to find in Encanto a bewitched illustration of the future home I have been studying in depth in my foresight practice.
In the framework we developed at Silicon Humanism to underline the transformation the home is currently experiencing, we define Four Archetypes of Future Homes and emphasize how the pandemic and ensuing global crisis have crystallized these archetypes for the upcoming decade.
“The pandemic has redesigned our home landscape, transforming our everyday environment while accentuating changes previously underway. Two levels are now morphing: the structures (home design, materials, furniture, appliance) and the intangibles (schedules, behaviors, social bonds, mental health). For most of us, shelter-in-place led to rearranging our current home and making adjustments to adapt to new requirements. The modularity of the Tetris Home helped people develop short-term resilience and sustain the peak of the crisis. Unfortunately for many, homes were under-equipped to face such challenges. When budgets are limited, stress and anxiety are over-the-roof, and mental health is seriously damaged in the context of a homelife that comes to represent a threat in itself, homes switch to take the shape of Toxic Homes. The interest for Bunker Homes has been on the rise, with a booming demand and an adaptation of the market to address that demand. If cabin fever makes it an improbable long-term solution, bunker homes have the advantage of encouraging sustainability. In the future, the most viable option is the development of Safe Haven Homes, which can offer structural resilience, embrace the outdoors and create an auspicious environment for the individuals to climb up the Maslow pyramid and meet most of their needs from physiological to security, social and self-fulfillment (hobbies, spirituality). This last archetype emphasizes our sense of looking out at the landscape and into the future.”
In the movie, the home goes through each of our identified archetypes, as it transforms from an idealized version of Smart Home to a Bunker Home, a Toxic Home, then Tetris home, and finally a future-driven Safe Haven.
Smart Home. In the first fifth of the movie, the Madrigal home is presented as an idealized version of home, whose tiles and walls are smarter than your smarter homes equipped by General Electric, Google Nest nor Alexa. The home anticipates your every step, your every move and even your every desire, be it about helping you to wake up, get dressed or set the table. But soon enough we transit from this ideal smart home (to me, a pure version of how we imagined our future home this past decade, fully automatized and serving our every need, except advanced technology and artificial intelligence would do the trick instead of Disney magic) to a scarier version of home.
Bunker Home. Following an old-times danger that fell down on the matriarch Abuela and her descendants, the home starts to reveal some cracks. In the second fifth of the film, most of its inhabitants want to believe the home is secure and only consider the safe haven they want it to be. However a more perspicacious character (Mirabel — the etymology of mira means a look, a target, a purpose) sees through the cracks and anticipates the collapse of the home. Here we witness another parallel with the Collapse scenario foresight practitioners envision as part of their tour d’horizon. Where the viewers are led to believe the home is here to serve as a pedestal to its inhabitants’ every talent, it actually happens to be nothing more than a bunker home. A short-term solution to answer a situation of crisis, which cannot resist the passing of time.
Toxic Home. In the third part of the movie, the family crisis gets clearer contours and love-hate relationships are put to the test. Sister rivalry, imposteur syndrome, and insecurities get revealed, as family bonds are stretched to their limits. Identity crisis and soul-searching, ugly duckling feelings, the involuntary sabotage of an engagement party, and a hidden man-in-iron-mask-like character getting out of his donjon show us that the next step is about change management. No wonder that Mirabel’s symbol is the butterfly. As the butterfly effect states, “a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” Similarly, a slight change in an apparent stable home turned it into a toxic environment in less than no time!
Tetris Home. In the next part of the movie, we witness the in-action transformation of our Madrigal home. Its inhabitants need to solve their own challenges and relationship complexities to be able to achieve true co-living. If the Madrigal house doesn’t collapse, it’s because its inhabitants are resourceful as to how to save the home and because the Mаdrigаl fаmily is extremely protective of the entire fаmily. It resonates with our study of the home which underlines the importance of mental health and bonding between co-living partners as to how to make it work. The aesthetics of the home’s moving parts in this unique Disney animation style are probably the best illustration of what my idea of a Tetris home could be.
Safe Haven. Finally, and this communal part is absolutely enchanting, the whole village joins in the effort. For a long time, villagers have been enjoying the generosity and gifts of the Madrigal family. Now the gift-giving is turned around and following sociologist Mauss’ principle of three-steps giving — gift is not a pure transactional action, but a society-defining process and a “total social fact” based on the obligation to give, the obligation to receive, and the obligation to give back — the village is now helping the Madrigal family to rebuild the home. The home is in symbiosis with its environment, including Noah’s ark inspirations and biophilic design connotations.
I couldn’t help but finish this note on the supporting character — but nonetheless crucial role — of the futurist Bruno (“We don’t talk about Bruno!”). He is probably closer to a prophet, a seer or an oracle, being able to envision the worst scenarios. Nonetheless, there are some parts of the character that reflect our role as futurists and foresight practitioners.
- First, such Cassandra’s curse resonates with our foresight practice as we sometimes tell a future no one wants to hear about nor believe in.
- But mostly, I was captivated by the fact that Bruno mentions that he saw two possible outcomes in Mirabel’s prophecy. Which means, it’s not about one future set in stone, but about possible scenarios of the future (as in futures thinking) and about taking action to change that course of action.
- Lastly, while Bruno isn’t the main protagonist of our story, he is the one who unlocks Mirabel’s quest based on the signals he has collected in the shape of the broken pieces of a fluorescent green screen. What a nice metaphor of our signal scanning technique!