Flying Saucer? Marketing ploy? Oversized Smartie?
The Futuro House may seem like a whimsically retro example of sci-fi future-gazing, but Finnish architect Matti Suuronen was being anything but self-indulgent when he created this prefabricated fibreglass home in the Sixties. Responding to a commission that asked for a mass-produced, portable, easy-to-erect summerhouse, Suuronen responded by creating an elliptical fibreglass form, made up of only 16 elements, buildable in 2 days and can (allegedly) accommodate 8. Suuronen apparently had no idea that his creation resembled a UFO; instead, he championed his design as a piece of pure architecture, directly responding to a need. Fewer than 100 were ultimately built, of which only 60 are believed to still exist today. Fortunately for London, though a pristine example (owned by artist and Futuro House-obsessive Craig Barnes) landed on the roof of Central St Martins in 2015, where it opens the public between March and July for guided tours by Barnes himself.
On one such tour, I was struck by just how ‘communal’ the interior felt, and struggled to think of seven friends I’d feel comfortable living with in such close quarters. The clinical white fibreglass interior also seemed rather at odds with the forested environment in which these houses were originally placed. But despite those misgivings, I couldn't help imagining how exhilarating it must have been to be perched within nature, afforded an unimpeded 360-degree view through the House’s space-age porthole. That such an idealistic, radical, forward-thinking piece of mass-produced architecture could ever see the light of day also pays homage to the lofty aspirations of the post-war era. It may well resemble the love child of a caravan and a Smartie, but the Futuro House shows how even small-scale architecture can be proudly pioneering — and can still captivate the imagination, half a century after its debut.