In a village full of rectangular houses near the town of Grimari, Central African Republic, one house stands out -
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A colony of Wallace Neff’s bubble houses (“maisons ballons”) in Dakar — as they look now -
And as they looked in 1949, when they were built -
Wallace Neff, a Southern California architect who made Spanish-style mansions for Hollywood stars in the ’30s and ’40s, also tried his hand at designing innovative, low-cost housing for the poor. His Airform houses, often called bubble houses, were inexpensive and easy to build -
Meant to remedy 1940s housing shortages, the houses never caught on in the United States. Only a few hundred of them were built here, rather than the thousands that Neff expected, and nearly all have since been torn down.