A showy mid-century round house in Jacksonville, Florida, was just put on the market –
The vacation house of the future, as conceived in 1957 by automobile designer James R. Powers –
It has stylistic affinities with the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport, built during the same period –
Two of the most creative architects ever to embrace the round form, Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff, were both born on June 8—Wright in 1867, and Goff in 1904.
For Wright, the circular form symbolized freedom, an escape from the traditional residential box. As he explained in 1952, “a box is a containment. I tried to abolish the box.” Wright designed at least 14 round and semi-circular houses, as well as, most famously, the spiraling Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Not all of his round house designs were built; sadly, some of his most beautiful and innovative efforts never made it beyond the planning stage.
Wright’s 1938 project for Ralph Jester, meant for a suburban housing community in Palos Verdes, California, was his first attempt at a circular residence –
Another unbuilt round house was the Ludd M. Spivey house, which Wright designed during the same period.
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 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.
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.
A novelty style round house in Eads, Colorado, was recently entered on the National Register of Historic Places. Named the Crow-Hightower House after two of its early owners, the house has a conical entrance, a crenellated cornice, walls of contrasting brick, and an “exuberant” circular form. Here is the house in 1955, a few years after it was built –
The NRHP registration form includes historical information about round houses in the US, noting that they are relatively rare both in Colorado and nationally. Apparently the builder of the Crow-Hightower House, Warren A. Portrey, had previously built another round house just outside of Eads, and went on to build two more circular structures in Oregon.
Portrey’s son Ron recalled that Portrey, who was always interested in new things, was eager to build more round houses. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get people interested in them because they were “not conventional” and “not the same style everybody else was building.” Portrey built the two Oregon structures — a house and a workshop — for himself.