Tomorrow’s Houses from Yesterday

Architects and designers have always had visionary ideas of what life in the future would be like. Here we offer a snapshot of five concept dwellings that offered promises of a better world.

Howl5 ft2 header
Howl 5 futuro house
Futuro House
On display at the WeeGee museum in Tapiola, Espoo, Finland.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Howl 5 biosphere
Biosphere 2
The world’s largest controlled environment
Photo: Jasper Nance via Flickr
Howl 5 iconhousezero
House Zero by Lake Flato and ICON
East Austin, TX
Photo: ICON
— The Monsanto House of the Future

This popular attraction at Disneyland, California, opened in 1957, the result of a partnership between Disney, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Monsanto company. Designers were asked to imagine what housing might look like 30 years in the future. The futuristic fiberglass structure was set on a pedestal, with a kitchen and bathroom in the central part of the home and the bedrooms and living spaces branching out like spokes. The exterior shell of the house, floors and ceiling were all made out of plastic—an inexpensive way to prefabricate houses and minimize the harvesting of trees for lumber. As a house of the future, it included a flat-screen TV—a novelty at the time.


In 1967, the House of the Future closed for good at Disneyland, with more than 20 million people having visited it during the ten years it was standing, but recently Howard Johnson’s opened its own House of the Retro Future Suite in Anaheim that pays homage to the defunct Disneyland attraction, where guests can pay about $2,000 for a two-night stay and enjoy a nostalgic view of the future.

— The Futuro House Touches Down on Earth

The Futuro House was conceived by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968 as a portable ski chalet. Often nicknamed the Flying Saucer or the UFO House, the idea behind this prefab house was born when his childhood friend Jaako Hidenkari was looking for someone to design a lightweight cabin that was easily transportable through all kinds of terrain. Built of fiberglass reinforced plastic, it was constructed of sixteen pieces bolted together and positioned on a steel frame. It could fit a cozy eight people and featured an electric heating system which could go from -20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in just 30 minutes.


From 1968 to 1973, about 100 of the Futuro Homes were built worldwide, and sold for about $12,000 to $14,000 each. Aside from being houses, they have been used as banks, restaurants, children’s playrooms, targets for shooting practice and even a dog kennel. Today, about 68 of them still stand, in various states of condition, with the biggest concentration being in the United States (eighteen structures). So, while the houses were a sci-fi vision of the future, they turned out to be a curiosity rather than a force for change.

— A Failed Mission Gets a Second Life

Biosphere 2, the world’s largest controlled environment, located on a three-acre site in Oracle, Arizona, and constructed between 1987 and 1991, had as its mission to create the equivalent of a self-sustaining colony on another planet. Described as a “live-in terrarium”, the organization’s first experiment had a crew of eight “Biospherians” living in a multi-biome bubble that was meant to last 100 years (It lasted only two years.).


Today the giant terrarium (managed by the University of Arizona since 2011) is finally becoming a site for new and risky research. It currently is studying how tropical ecosystems might weather late-21st-century heat and drought. And in March of this year, it unveiled a project to mimic a plant-filled habitat on a lifeless alien world like Mars.

— Is a 3D-Printed House the Solution to our Housing Crisis?

Architecture studio Lake Flato has completed a 3D-printed, modern ranch-style home in East Austin, Texas that is a model for the future of housing by joining beauty, sustainability and technological efficiency. The “House Zero” single-family residence, built in collaboration with ICON, a construction technology company, uses 3D printing and robotic construction to dispense layers of Lavacrete, a cement-like substance that is air-tight, to construct the walls of the 2,000-square-foot home. The building took 10 days to print, and the home was built using biophilic design principles which allowed the soft curves of the walls to create pleasant circulation routes throughout the home. Building houses with this technology means that homes like this could be constructed faster and at a lower cost.

— Next Stop: Moon Village

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), in partnership with the European Space Agency and MIT, has designed Moon Village, a concept for the first full-time human settlement on the lunar surface. The challenge with a colony like Moon Village is to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting, requiring the designers to consider issues such as radiation protection, pressure differentials and how to provide breathable air.


This bold initiative calls for three- to four-story structures with workspaces, living quarters, environmental controls and life support systems. These inflatable structures would provide resistance to extreme temperatures, projectiles and solar radiation. SOM’s concept enables Moon Village to carry out its purpose as a scientific, industrial and entertainment development.

Moonvillage
— The Monsanto House of the Future

This popular attraction at Disneyland, California, opened in 1957, the result of a partnership between Disney, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Monsanto company. Designers were asked to imagine what housing might look like 30 years in the future. The futuristic fiberglass structure was set on a pedestal, with a kitchen and bathroom in the central part of the home and the bedrooms and living spaces branching out like spokes. The exterior shell of the house, floors and ceiling were all made out of plastic—an inexpensive way to prefabricate houses and minimize the harvesting of trees for lumber. As a house of the future, it included a flat-screen TV—a novelty at the time.


In 1967, the House of the Future closed for good at Disneyland, with more than 20 million people having visited it during the ten years it was standing, but recently Howard Johnson’s opened its own House of the Retro Future Suite in Anaheim that pays homage to the defunct Disneyland attraction, where guests can pay about $2,000 for a two-night stay and enjoy a nostalgic view of the future.

— The Futuro House Touches Down on Earth
Howl 5 futuro house
Futuro House
On display at the WeeGee museum in Tapiola, Espoo, Finland.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Futuro House was conceived by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968 as a portable ski chalet. Often nicknamed the Flying Saucer or the UFO House, the idea behind this prefab house was born when his childhood friend Jaako Hidenkari was looking for someone to design a lightweight cabin that was easily transportable through all kinds of terrain. Built of fiberglass reinforced plastic, it was constructed of sixteen pieces bolted together and positioned on a steel frame. It could fit a cozy eight people and featured an electric heating system which could go from -20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in just 30 minutes.


From 1968 to 1973, about 100 of the Futuro Homes were built worldwide, and sold for about $12,000 to $14,000 each. Aside from being houses, they have been used as banks, restaurants, children’s playrooms, targets for shooting practice and even a dog kennel. Today, about 68 of them still stand, in various states of condition, with the biggest concentration being in the United States (eighteen structures). So, while the houses were a sci-fi vision of the future, they turned out to be a curiosity rather than a force for change.

— A Failed Mission Gets a Second Life
Howl 5 biosphere
Biosphere 2
The world’s largest controlled environment
Photo: Jasper Nance via Flickr

Biosphere 2, the world’s largest controlled environment, located on a three-acre site in Oracle, Arizona, and constructed between 1987 and 1991, had as its mission to create the equivalent of a self-sustaining colony on another planet. Described as a “live-in terrarium”, the organization’s first experiment had a crew of eight “Biospherians” living in a multi-biome bubble that was meant to last 100 years (It lasted only two years.).


Today the giant terrarium (managed by the University of Arizona since 2011) is finally becoming a site for new and risky research. It currently is studying how tropical ecosystems might weather late-21st-century heat and drought. And in March of this year, it unveiled a project to mimic a plant-filled habitat on a lifeless alien world like Mars.

— Is a 3D-Printed House the Solution to our Housing Crisis?

Architecture studio Lake Flato has completed a 3D-printed, modern ranch-style home in East Austin, Texas that is a model for the future of housing by joining beauty, sustainability and technological efficiency. The “House Zero” single-family residence, built in collaboration with ICON, a construction technology company, uses 3D printing and robotic construction to dispense layers of Lavacrete, a cement-like substance that is air-tight, to construct the walls of the 2,000-square-foot home. The building took 10 days to print, and the home was built using biophilic design principles which allowed the soft curves of the walls to create pleasant circulation routes throughout the home. Building houses with this technology means that homes like this could be constructed faster and at a lower cost.

— Next Stop: Moon Village

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), in partnership with the European Space Agency and MIT, has designed Moon Village, a concept for the first full-time human settlement on the lunar surface. The challenge with a colony like Moon Village is to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting, requiring the designers to consider issues such as radiation protection, pressure differentials and how to provide breathable air.


This bold initiative calls for three- to four-story structures with workspaces, living quarters, environmental controls and life support systems. These inflatable structures would provide resistance to extreme temperatures, projectiles and solar radiation. SOM’s concept enables Moon Village to carry out its purpose as a scientific, industrial and entertainment development.

Moonvillage
Howl 5 iconhousezero
House Zero by Lake Flato and ICON
East Austin, TX
Photo: ICON