a concrete mushroom

Designed by architect George Bissell in 1963 as a demonstration house for a nationwide association of cement companies, this house was meant to prove that concrete homes were modern, inexpensive, and easy to maintain. A “concrete ‘mushroom,’ of unsurpassed strength and stability,” said the advertising brochure for the house, “it is a major step forward in the development of minimum-maintenance housing, as well as a satisfying esthetic achievement.”

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The first house in the new master-planned community of Laguna Niguel, in Orange County, California, it was visited by thousands of people when it was first built. All concrete and glass, with a floating, scalloped concrete roof, it was unlike any other house in the neighborhood, either before or since. While it didn’t spark a craze for round, all-concrete homes, as its developers may have hoped, it did manage to find sympathetic owners who didn’t tear it down or renovate it beyond recognition.

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sunflower house

A mid-century round house in Madison, Wisconsin, has just hit the market

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Built in 1952-53 by architect James Dresser, who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, the house has a central skylight, curved hallways, cork walls, a mix of wood and cork floors, and a round brick fireplace. It was for some years the architect’s family home.

Structurally, the house is a concrete shell built on a radial framework of curved steel beams. Stylistically, it’s both circular and angular, its round form accented by a series of triangular windows.

The innovative house was featured in a November 1952 edition of Popular Mechanics, which said, in something of rhetorical flourish, that “cobwebs will never collect in the corners” of the new house because “there aren’t any corners.”

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stranger in a strange house

Noted science fiction author Robert Heinlein designed and built this house –

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Together with his wife Virginia, Heinlein lived in the house for 20 years, from 1967 to 1987.

A news article from 1985, calling it a “futuristic round house,” said that its 80 feet of book shelves displayed Heinlein’s own works, translated into 29 languages. It also noted that the author, “whose writings advocate space exploration and open marriage, has filled his home with photographs from the U.S. space program and artistic renderings of lithe women.”

The house is located in the Bonny Doon neighborhood of Santa Cruz, California.