Villa Circuitus, the first round house in Sweden to meet passive house standards –
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.”
The round house in Bolinas, California, is or at least was a masterpiece –
I have to admit that I’ve seen very few photos of it, and those that I have seen are nearly 50 years old. Yet the house still exists — one can find it on Google maps — and if it looks the way it did in 1966, it’s one of the most beautiful round houses in the country.
The happy result of a multi-year collaboration between architect Robert B. Marquis and woodworker Art Carpenter, the house’s owner, it showcases Marquis’ structural knowledge and Carpenter’s love of wood. Begun in about 1958, when Carpenter moved to Bolinas from San Francisco, the house wasn’t finished until 1965. “It was completely hand built,” said Carpenter’s son Tripp, who grew up there; every shelf, doorknob, table and counter was custom designed and made by hand.
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 –