In London, just off Battersea High Street, an oval house for sale –
She practiced alternative medicine; he was a doctor. But despite his conventional facade it was he — and decidedly not she — who dreamed of living in a circular house.
The doctor, property-owner and soon-to-be-round-house-builder explained his thinking on an episode of the British television show Grand Designs. His architect sent him a drawing, he said, that was a perfect circle. “I took one look at it, and thought, that’s great; it’s what nature would do: nature doesn’t grow squares … it just grabbed me.”
The story of how this man took a compelling idea and made a house out of it — and how he somehow managed to convince his reluctant spouse to stick with him during the process — is unexpectedly moving.
At the end of the episode, narrator Kevin McCloud speaks about the house’s structure, but he could just as easily be describing the couple’s relationship: “the contradiction between the square and the round is completely resolvable. A building can take opposite ideas and synthesize from them something new and exciting.”
If you can get to London in the next 10 days, you will have the rare chance to visit a restored Futuro House. A prefabricated, spaceship-like structure, the Futuro House was designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968 as a holiday cabin –
Built of fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic, and measuring 26 feet in diameter, the Futuro House sits on a metal stand; it was meant to be easy to build and easy to transport. The idea was to mass produce the structures and sell them around the world, but their design found little favor with the public. Fewer than 100 Futuro Houses were ever built; only about 60 of them exist today, many in disrepair. (For the closest thing to a full list of those that have survived, visit FuturoHouse.net, which has tracked down Futuros in Japan, Russia, Malaysia and Ukraine, among other places.)
Artist Craig Barnes discovered the house above while on vacation in South Africa. He bought it, dismantled it, shipped it to the UK, and spent the past 18 months restoring it to its former glory. At Matt’s Gallery in east London, it is being used as a temporary space for an “intimate and informal series of talks, discussions, lectures, exhibitions, screenings and performances at 4pm every day.”
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.
The circle-studded facade of NYC’s Dream Downtown Hotel –
The hotel is the latest incarnation of an iconic 1966 building designed by Louisiana architect Albert C. Ledner, known for a sort of playful, oddball modernism. Just off Ninth Avenue, stretching between West 16th and 17th Street, the building was recently transformed by Handel Architects. The building’s 16th Street facade, above, was covered in shiny stainless steel, as was its 17th Street facade (on the left, below, in its original red-brick cladding).
The building’s circular motif — equally in evidence in the adjoining Ledner-designed structure, the white tile and concrete Maritime Hotel — reflects the structure’s history. Both buildings were originally annexes to the headquarters of the National Maritime Union: the porthole windows were a coy reference to life at sea.
Ledner, whose use of circular forms extends from his professional to his personal life, or vice-versa, lives in a round house of his own design in New Orleans.
News of Buckminster Fuller’s circular aluminum house, complete with artist’s rendering, in the Pittsburgh Press, on April 12, 1946 –
INT, exhibition hall, men and women stand around a low display table showing a scale model of a circular home. R. Buckminster Fuller is interviewed by a man in a suit.
Man: “Mr. Fuller, why a . . . a round house???”
Fuller: “Why not? The only reason that houses have been rectangular all these years is that, that is all we could do with the materials we had. Now with modern materials and technology, we can apply to houses the same efficiency of engineering that we apply to suspension bridges and airplanes . . . . The whole thing is as modern as a streamlined plane.“