Wouldn’t you know that people couldn’t just stop and live with the beautiful architectural designs of say, Frank Lloyd Wright, in the changing times of the 1960’s and 70’s. But even though a lot of strange architectural designs were created here and there and around the world in centuries prior–the 60’s brought some sometimes bizarre ideas that were both hideous and actually quite workable if you weren’t freaked out by a particular oddball shape to your house. One architectural movement that eventually crossed over to the U.S. started in Finland by an architect named Matti Suuronen. That name is largely forgotten today–but he started a new pre-fabricated type of house design that also seemed to play up a new obsession related to the race to get into space: A house shaped like a flying saucer.
The whole movement came about in 1965 when Surronen was asked to design a ski cabin somewhere in the mountains of Finland. The design he came up with was strange, yet very economical when it came to heating. Once it was built, the shock of having to reside inside a cabin that shaped like a flying saucer probably wore off when the heating system managed to heat the interior in a short amount of time thanks to a polyurethane insulation. It was also easy to design ahead of time due to the simple circular shape–and it could essentially be placed anywhere via a helicopter thanks to being manufactured in another location.
Finns seemed to lap up this new idea that satisfied the growing excitement over technology and the obsession over traveling into space. This was just right before the moon landing for the U.S., too, and we eventually adopted the same design right around the same time. Some say that the end of the original TV series of “Star Trek” in 1969 was also an integral reason why some U.S. citizens decided to have these type of homes built for themselves. While it seems dubious that “Star Trek” would start a whole architectural movement, there isn’t any doubt that the Apollo 11 moon landing and increased sightings of UFO’s around the world throughout the 1960’s were on the minds of those who obsessed over science fact and fiction.
If not always exactly that, a new environmental movement was also beginning during the Hippie Movement that probably made the idea of economical and transportable homes look fairly appealing. When the concept was finally called “Futuro” around 1969, the idea of building a flying saucer-shaped home with only sixteen simple parts (and could be placed right on a beach, then transported to a mountain somewhere) gained a huge following around the world. The U.S. kept it going right on through the era you’d expect when Hippie-oriented, New Age, environmental causes were really the cool thing to do: 1969-1975. The end of the Futuro Movement, the leftovers that still exist, and Buckminster Fuller’s better idea of Dymaxion homes…
Along with the wide disgust of government by the mid 70’s–those involved in environmental movements and basic space-age type of philosophy started getting involved in other interests. And so Futuro homes stopped being produced, though it’s said America’s oil crisis around the time of Nixon’s resignation was really the culprit in making the production of plastic for the homes a huge expense for the U.S. leg of the company. However, the people who already owned a Futuro home kept them for the next thirty years. I can only imagine the discussions, though, that took place during the 80’s and 90’s when homes like this became a bit of a laughing stock or just oddball curios. Perhaps others used the convenience of the easy mobility behind these homes and moved them to remote locations so highly-populated neighborhoods wouldn’t mock them.
These homes did slowly disappear over time, and apparently less than 100 exist in the world. The U.S., of course, still has them around as evidenced from a highly-publicized (as of this writing) story about an old Futuro home made to look exactly like a flying saucer that’s up for sale in Tennessee. Having heavy publicity over one of these homes again might create more interest in the old Futuro Movement that was a unique time in American history…if maybe perplexing for the younger generation used to the traditional structure of homes and living in an age when a flying saucer is mocked in pop culture. But with energy costs soaring today, learning about how much money a Futuro home saved on heating (and the amazing ability to heat the structure in a hurry) should be something worth repeating. That might even make the current Futuro home for sale in Tennessee a hot commodity while everybody else struggles with their heat bills.
If you think this was the first time the thought that a portable (and circular) home would be a smarter element to urban planning–then you haven’t heard the name Buckminster Fuller. The man was fascinated with the circle through his scientific career anyway, especially when you see his most famous creation of a geodesic dome used at Walt Disney World. His creation of a home made out of aluminum, though, was a slightly different shape (much more flattened) and also economical to produce and live in. He called it the Dymaxion House–with the “Dymaxion” being used as part of many of his inventions. The word is supposed to come from the words dynamic, maximum and ion, but it’s never been in public record exactly what it meant. This type of home, too, was being tested long before the Futuro homes were designed.
In the argument that Futuro homes weren’t always perfectly shaped to live in–the circular shape of Fuller’s Dymaxion home was said to be as comfortable (or more so) than a regular house. The most innovative functions were the interiors and especially how the bathrooms were designed. It’s probably strange for people to rave over the interior structure of a bathroom, but how comfortable you are in one makes a big difference and the overall impression of a home’s livability. One of those features was a fine-mist shower that helped conserve on water. Kids could fling water around inside because the aluminum material surrounding the little “bubbles” (or separate little connected sections to the house) that made up the various parts of the bathroom made it impossible to cause any water damage. The unique ventilation system was ingenious. It was a fan under the sink to keep odors away from people’s nasal passages.
The overall design was beyond brilliant as Fuller was in everything he created. It nonetheless didn’t gel in the modern age due to the populace wanting to design houses that stood alone rather than looking uniform. Had Fuller managed to come up with a way to vary the shapes of his Dymaxion houses, maybe they would have been successful. Most people, though, just thought of homes in terms of a square rather than having the obsession with the circle or dome shape as Fuller did.
But consider these few strangely-constructed homes that had their own rhyme and reason for being designed that way: The Winchester House, The Upside-Down House–and the house with pod-like bedrooms suspended by cables…
–So much for a wealthy heir listening to an obviously phony medium who tells the heir that her family has a curse and that she’ll have to move to another home and keep building on it to keep the curse from taking another life. Most people would think that’s nonsense today, but Winchester (of rifle fame) heir, Sarah Winchester, took this seriously…and ultimately went mad in the process. However, this architectural madness also turned into one of San Jose, California’s most popular tourist attractions in time.
It’s almost disturbing today to see the interior of Sarah Winchester’s house that involved constructing steps that led to nowhere or new rooms and stories (even chimneys) added on for no particular reason other than to appease the thought that spirits were plaguing her family (many in the family had died via using the Winchester rifles) and such a house would ward them off somehow. It may actually be a bit of a study in mental illness manifested through architecture–yet still fascinating in how construction workers managed to add on so much while still making it structurally sound.
Keep in mind that it was actually one of the first houses on the west coast of the U.S. to have modern conveniences including an automatic heating system and modern plumbing. This was between the 1890’s to the early 1920’s.
–If you thought a house couldn’t be built upside-down (and done via political protest)–then think again. In Poland, a businessman named Daniel Czapiewski decided to build a house that would represent the old Communistic era and as a protest to how bad things had gotten since then. Sure, it sounds almost impossible that a house could be built upside-down, but the foundation was built sturdily, yet designed to look just like a roof. As you might guess, the roof was designed to resemble a foundation as if a giant ripped a random house out of the ground, tossed it aside and landed upside-down.
While similar structures have been designed to throw your equilibrium off via optical illusion–this one is one of the worst in making visitors dizzy. If you happen to go all the way to Szymbark, Poland to see this stunning house–be sure to take some Dramamine before stepping inside.
–One of the oddest designs in American home architecture has to be the Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma. Designed by architect Bruce Goff in the mid-1950’s for a family by the name of Bavinger. The design of this one involves one continuous (and spiraling) stone wall wrapping a structure resembling a tower. It’s noted, though, for having a bedroom and study room in pod form while (seemingly) hanging on precariously from the spiraling wall.
With many strangely-designed homes, though, you can’t always get a good idea of what the interior looks like based merely on the shape of the exterior. The interior of the Bavinger House looks as cohesive as a regular house once you’re inside. Even those pod-like rooms are natural extensions of the main area of the house. If you decide to have a home built as odd as these–you better plan to stay there for the rest of your life, because most home buyers still think like a…well, square…