In a village full of rectangular houses near the town of Grimari, Central African Republic, one house stands out -
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If you’ve always wanted to live in a round house, but have never found the right one, in the right place, for the right price, you could always try building one yourself. That’s what Tomasi and Irene Tukuafu did in 2009, and they seem very happy with the results -
The couple, who live on the banks of the Mississippi River in Nauvoo, Illinois, built the house using reclaimed timbers from an old log cabin that had been torn down. During a televised house tour just after the house was finished, Irene Tukuafu explained the couple’s interest in circular design to a skeptical interviewer.
Once upon a time — about 2,500 years ago — people in what is now Britain switched from building rectangular houses to building round houses: in many instances, small circular structures with wooden walls made of wattle and daub, no windows, a conical roof, and a single entrance. And for more than 2,500 years, from the early Bronze Age to the late Iron Age, they stuck with this circular design, even while people in the rest of Europe — or what later became Europe — lived in rectangular structures.
It was with the Roman conquest that the British, too, began to adopt rectangular house designs. But evidence of the region’s history of round construction can still be found in archeological sites all over the UK, from Dartmoor, Devon, England, to Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
In recent years, a number of replica round houses have been built. Below is one in Burwardsley, Cheshire, which is open to school groups and other visitors -
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 -
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.
This pretty circular house in Båstad, Sweden, was on the market earlier this year -
Beautifully located just off the beach, it was apparently build decades ago as some sort of outbuilding for the neighboring Hotel Riviera. Later it was converted into a vacation home, and later still into a permanent residence. Simple, elegant, and very cool.