Designed by maverick American architect Bruce Goff, the Ruth Ford House — known variously as the Round House, Coal House, and Umbrella House — is a creative tour de force. It could not look less like neighboring houses in suburban Aurora, Illinois, where it was built in 1947-49, and local people took it as an architectural affront. Fortunately, as the photo below attests, the owners of the house were undaunted -
On the grounds of an abandoned military base in southern New Jersey, there survives a small collection of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Deployment Units (DDUs), the innovative designer’s WWII-era effort to create an inexpensive, portable housing system.
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 -
Cecil Alexander’s circular house in Atlanta, on the cover of Florida Architect in April 1958. Finished in 1957, the house was featured in Life magazine in November of that year, and in Progressive Architecture in November 1959.
Back in the late 1950s, when living in the suburbs was understood to be the common aspiration of mankind, the magazine Suburbia Today asked this question of its readers. In an article about the “unusual suburban home” of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Benson, whose circular floor plan offered ample open space for entertaining guests, it gave an appealing glimpse of life in the round.
Stunning views, tasteful furnishings, elegant cocktail parties — a round home was modern and glamorous, the magazine suggested.
The Walter Bensons wanted their house to be round so that they could get maximum exposure to their magnificent views. To live way, way up on the top of a mountain in a house that seems to melt in with its surroundings; to look freely all about you and see the mountain ridges to the side, the bay and ocean below, and the teeming city across that you must be part of and yet can turn away from at will — this was the dream of the Bensons.
Built in 1950, the house was said to be in terrible shape in 1998 when it was bought and restored by actress Kelly Lynch and writer Mitch Glazer. Lautner principal Helena Arahuete led the restoration, and the original builder, John de la Veaux, came back to assist on it.
The swirling living room is stunning.