FUTURE WORLDS

The race for spaceflight supremacy between two Cold War rivals had effects even more expansive than eco-political ambitions would suggest. A consequent oversaturation of dynamic space imagery on the home front ensued — fundamentally afflicting the popular canon with otherworldly desire that, in turn, provoked a desire for new living forms to mirror this condition. Conceptualisations of the future and its promise of a more profound life became intrinsically linked to these images of the beyond that began to coalesce into a singular aesthetic typology — or a new architectural code for inhabitation.

It is the intention of this paper to provide an analysis of three of these forms as polarising exemplars of an ethico-aesthetic approach towards a time that never was.


Terrestrial anomalies, fabricated pre-futures — both the genesis and demise of the habitable space age can be found not in schematics, but in the stars. Man’s New World, at the forefront of mid 20th Century discussion, sees a momentary thrusting of man ‘into the future even as he lives in the present’[1] — a process that forged an analogue between new forms and lifestyles: a summated break in the ‘utter discordance’[2] between the practice of design and architecture. The Space Race, expedited by the Cold War, ensured a proliferation of images of the beyond — that of the spacecraft, the rocket launch and the Earth in vacuo. These visuals of a new time were underscored with the promise of a more desirable life — with man’s ‘dominion over the forces’[3] displayed without fear or precedent. The orbital release of the Sputnik in 1957 cemented an optimistic futurity — whilst it also bound an ethic set to a markedly singular aesthetic. Certain designs of the time, in particular those by Walt Disney Imagineering, Matti Suuronen and Dries Kreijkamp demonstrated a whimsical extrusion of these ethics — an undeniable physical metabolisation of this lens upon a future. The structures worked to reinforce images of the beyond expressed by way of elliptical forms, lightweight shells and graphic diagonals as a means of adhering a particular aesthetic to a more acute code for future living. They presented a multiplicity of form and preached a unique blend of the pragmatic, the considered and the fantastic respectively in their servitude of real time requisites, spatial economics and the visions they painted for inhabitation. As part of broader networks, the designs demonstrated an infatuation with the new interspersed with a systemic devotion to all that would compose a reality to come. These were not isolated architectural efforts, but rather propositions equipped with theoretically infinite potential and positioned for a new time. A time that the cosmonaut had confirmed sat tangibly upon the horizon.

Why then were they to shy from the lasting architectural canon, to be affixed to a paradigm denounced by kitsch proclivities and imitative fashions? Why did we instead start to rebuild the past? It can be argued that a projection of the future is more reflective of ‘exaggerated descriptions of existing conditions’[4] rather than a point carefully considered upon a chronological trajectory — and perhaps no designs implicated this notion with as much profundity as Disney’s House of the Future, Suuronen’s Futuro or Kreijkamp’s Bolwoningen. These were architectural programmes forced to favour the fantastic in an endeavour to hold up a contextual mirror — demonstrating a visionary brand aligned to mass motion and cartooned desire. Lasting practicality, however, proved elusive, an unsolvable equation that was to cast the designs into a cryogenic realm of scientific fiction. Functional premises became imaginatively hopeless, serving as poetic accounts of the age that facilitated their inception, rather than the future worlds they so desperately wanted to entertain.

Figure 01. Man’s New World: Part II/Tomorrow’s Life Today (1957). Source: LIFE Magazine

The spacecraft. A mobile machine designed to venture to outer space, the spacecraft’s advent quickly became a timely symbol: a physical embodiment of technical progress; a direct signifier of the dawn of a new age that unbound man from his origin planet. Notably its design interspersed astronautics with mechanical, electrical and propulsion engineering and presented an exemplar of rationalised scientific production — production of the kind that was heralded for drawing the 2nd World War to a close. The discipline of spacecraft design remains markedly similar to that initiated by the Space Race, which has contributed to the terrestrial mythologising of its product and its titanium alloyed panels, angular glass paneling and straight-winged configuration.[5] Never before had an aesthetic typology been so intrinsically tied to an efficient, functional premise and this was to be recognised universally. However this bind also offered reverse-engineering potential: if designers were able to suggest the form of these vessels, so too would their design seem to implicate a parallel in rationality.

Figure 02. Vostok capsule assembly and integration processing (1961). Source: http://spacefacts.de/

The rocket launch. In 1942 Germany launched their Vergeltungswaffe 2 (V-2) missile into outer space: a feat that would have bewildered the world were it not preoccupied by the ongoing conflict. By the time that the Soviet Union released the Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957 — marking the first propulsion of an object into space — the world was transfixed. This event ultimately triggered the United States to form the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency and an exponential increase in education, research and development investment followed in the name of national security. Moments after, the question of the possibility of human spaceflight was answered with the launch of Soviet Union cosmonaut Yuri Gagarun on 12 April 1961 as part of the Vostok programme.[6] An ultimate rebuttal was quick to follow in the form of the Apollo 11 spaceflight mission that landed humans on the surface of the moon. Images of man propelled by the rocket through the stratosphere asserted a new type of science fiction — science non-fiction — instilling hope within an imaginative paradigm that was determined to conquer antiquated boundaries. The sky no longer presented a ceiling: a look upwards was now to reveal not a limitation but an expansion: the possibility to enter untapped space.

Figure 03. NASA, Apollo 11 Saturn V lift off (1969). Source: http://nasa.gov/

The Earth in vacuo. A decade before the Sputnik found itself in space a group of scientists in the desert of New Mexico were the first to lay eyes on images of Earth as seen from (and against) space. October 24 1946 marked the premier of these granulated, monochromatic images captured from an altitude of 104km[7] — before which the highest vantage reached only a fraction of this, courtesy of the Explorer II balloon.[8] A V-2 missile captured a frame every one-and-a-half seconds with an attached camera before plummeting to the surface and destroying all but a steel cassette that encased a single roll of exposed 35mm film. In a 1950 edition of National Geographic, Clyde Holliday, the engineer responsible for the development of the camera, summated that these images revealed ‘how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship.’[9] Arthur C. Clarke digressed upon these effects: ‘Two possibilities [now] exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.’[10] And so, the widely published exposures revealed not only the Earth’s curvature but also a profoundly infinite blackness to the planet’s surround. A blackness in the form of an endless vacuum that seemed at odds with an insular, singular terrestrial existence.

Figure 04. Clyde Holliday, The First Photograph From Space (1946). Source: Air & Space Magazine

In keeping with images of the above and beyond — and that which would propel us there — Walt Disney Imagineering, together with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched the 1957 House of the Future initiative, with a mind to offering a fitting ethico-aesthetic manifestation of the future home. A design that sought precedent in Buckminster Fuller’s autonomous Dymaxion dwelling, whilst incorporating idyllic Space Race imagery that was at the forefront of minds with a satellite in orbit just months following the initiative’s launch. Monsanto Chemical Company sponsored the effort to champion a dominant division within the company — plastic — with a look not only towards a vague future, but a particular year. That year was 1986, where it endeavoured:

To develop plastics as sound engineering materials and help the construction industry utilise new designs and materials to achieve production line methods and facilities. Actually, there were two possible ways of reaching the goal — the step-by-step approach, or a dramatic all-out attack. The decision: to model dramatic attack.[11]
Figure 05. Buckminster Fuller with Dymaxion House (1927). Source: Bettmann/Corbis Archive

By specifying a year to project the design into, a ‘dramatic’ assertion was being made as to what life could appear and be like then — but perhaps more profoundly how it was to differ, and improve, from now. Monsanto had previously attached itself in a similar fashion to Marcel Breuer’s 1943 Plas-2-Point plastic-coated modular house as part of the Yankee Portables[12] project but envisaged more for this design, projecting it further into the future. The house was both a scientific proposition and theme park attraction and needed to be equal parts visionary and reactionary, with respect to Walt Disney’s infatuation with spaceflight, the Soviet Union’s already-displayed capabilities and proximity to the 2nd World War. Looking to this conflict, in the ‘mythology of popular culture’[13] it was science, more than men, that had won the battle, and so there was excitement as to how other synthetics would revolutionise modern life. Fundamentally this demonstrated a fusion between technical progress — with imagery of the spaceflight as its poster boy — and life betterment. The House of the Future hosted a central energy core, a concrete pedestal working both as a structural plinth, and energy connection between the housing unit and the grid it was to feed from. With a 120m2 footprint, it could be assembled anywhere and embraced a cruciform shape of modulated, moulded plastic wings — not dissimilar to the titanium panel treatment upon the spacecraft — garnering the affectionate title of ‘plastic mushroom’[14] and shying away from early notions of plastic substitutions for traditional, wooden elements.

Figure 06. Monsanto House of the Future construction phase (1957). Source: http://davelandweb.com/
Figure 07. Monsanto House of the Future (1957). Source: LIFE Magazine

There was a question as to whether ‘in architecture, will atomic processes create a new plastic order?’[15] and so MIT decided to ‘use plastics as Plastics’[16] — with vertically opposite cantilevers in place to enforce the material’s strength at scale. Importantly this ‘order’ — stemming from plastic fabrication techniques and structural potentialities — had begun to generate its own aesthetic typology. A mechanised kitchen and bathroom unit sat at the centre above the core, with the four glazed wings cantilevering radially from this point to form the living spaces. Polarised plastic ceiling panels moderated the intensity and type of luminosity, a dishwasher functioned via ultrasonic waves and cold zones replaced refrigerator units and emerged from the ceiling ‘at the touch of a button’.[17] Storage shelves, too, were of plastic fabrication and lowered electronically from overhead. A similarly concealed microwave unit permitted the cooking of various products simultaneously and with haste. A climate control panel was affixed to the kitchen wall above the energy core, offering multi-zone temperature differentiation and even the dispersion of variable scents (such as salted air) to specific rooms. The floors were of vinyl plastic to showcase the material’s durability and ease of maintenance. Such material homogeneity extended into the three bedrooms and fabrics within the House of the Future. Perhaps the most profound piece of functional gadgetry within the design, a pushbutton telephone intercom unit, was installed that dismissed the need to dial, with an embedded surveillance system facilitating the sighting of guests as they approached the entrance. The overtly curvilinear palette borrowed much from the Dymaxion and extended from the outer walls to the furnishings, appliances and partitions. The rooms, too, were furnished with streamline moderne pieces, in a similar fashion to the Case Study Houses — also ethico-aesthetic experiments in future living.[18] In short, the House of the Future offered the opportunity to:

Stimulate your imagination toward newer and better ways of building, furnishing and using your living space. An idea of what can happen when you take […] an idea of some of the elements that undoubtedly you will find when it comes your turn to build your house of the future[19]
Figure 08. Monsanto House of the Future plan detailing variability (1956). Source: Popular Science Magazine
Figure 09. Powered, revolving louvers of plastic screen beside window cast light patterns on TV-movie-stereo center along wall (1960). Source: Monsanto Magazine

Or, as summated within the promotional copy: ‘a dream of the future brought to reality’.[20] However hopeful this sentiment, the House gradually cemented its dreamlike presence by ultimately failing to entertain a ‘reality’. It was not that people were unable to ‘imagine how wonderful it would be to live in [such] a house’[21] but rather everything appeared too new, too disconnected and too relentlessly foreign to emulate the kind of warmth that would enable this design to shift from house to home. To its core, it was phantasmic — a wholly developed proposition that aligned the everyman to the cosmonaut by way of a parallel analogue presented between the house and the spacecraft. Moreover, the economics, so fundamental to the design’s feasibility, faltered. The structure’s plastic material itself cost fifteen thousand dollars[22] — a sizable sum when other prefabricated designs (such as the 1955 Eichler Home) were less dear with all components present. Out of the impressive appliances it hosted — as developed by companies such as Kelvinator, Sylvania and American Telephone — only the microwave and the pushbutton telephone were to find a place within the actual house of the future (c. 1986). There was a problem, too, in locating the House of the Future within a theme park. It foreshadowed any real effort to produce discussion, especially when situated to the base of Snow White’s castle, between an artificial Japanese garden and a moon rocket.[23] To compound this situational issue, the Disney association meant that this House had to be a real spectacle, something that MIT designers Richard Hamilton and Marvin Goody lamented by the end of the project’s tenure in 1967 — twenty years shy of the decade it had projected itself towards. As MIT Professor of Architecture Gary Van Zante notes, the project had to include every innovation possible, which quickly over-inflated the budget and thrust it into the realm of ‘exhibition’- quite apart from the practical proposition that marked its beginnings.[24] So the House of the Future quickly fell to the past and into the realm of fiction, its mass prefabrication potential resigning itself to only a single unit, serving to house not even a single family, although attracting some ten thousand people daily over its decade-long course.[25]

Figure 10. 15,000,000 visitors later, this home still has a future (1965). Source: Monsanto Magazine

Of particular importance here, however, is the way the House of the Future approached the tenuous, temperamental ratio between contextual ethics and a futuristic aesthetic, a ratio that Futuro had to entertain with its design. By this stage, a notional ethico-aesthetic of futurism, or Googie[26] as coined by Douglas Haskell, had prevailed via arrayed curvilinear forms, three-pronged bases and neon-saturated awnings — further reinforced by the Hanna-Barbera animated sitcom The Jetsons and other representations of the time. Much like the House of the Future, it was built fundamentally on contextual exaggeration and a celebration of ‘space age ideals and rocketship dreams’.[27] This was wide-eyed mid-century technological optimism popularised and most prevalent at expositions such as the 1964 New York World’s Fair and Disney’s Tomorrowland that hosted the House of the Future. As Alan Hess notes, the Googie was to capture the future by making it ‘accessible to everyone’[28] — it demonstrated an unpretentious, explosively technological aesthetic, analogous to Arthur Radebaugh’s postwar futurist illustrations that preached to all. A key stylistic component was its detachment from crafting affluent architectures, rather it prevailed most significantly within coffee shops, gas stations, car washes and banks — buildings that once typified the mundane that would then enable the modern, atomic spirit to infiltrate daily life. Hess concludes that the Googie:

Established the technological image of Modernism in the lives of the mass public. It completed the revolution of Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier, the Futurists and the Constructivists, the Expressionists and the Bauhaus[29]
Figure 11. New York State Pavilion (1964). Source: New York World’s Fair 1964–1965 Corporation
Figure 12. Arthur Radebaugh, Closer Than We Think (1960). Source: Chicago Tribune Archives

And so, a year following the demolition of House of the Future and as a byproduct of the ‘economic boom and optimism about the future’[30] in Finland, Matti Suuronen, a primarily industrial architect received a commission in 1968 from a local doctor to design a dynamic alpine chalet. The assignment had few conditions but the design needed to comply with key aspects as listed within an ethically futurist brief: the ability to shift site on-cue, to acclimatise appropriately and rapidly to new terrains. Moreover, it was to pick up ‘where Fuller’s early Dymaxion and Wichita houses — also designed for mass production — left off’.[31] And so Futuro was born.

Suuronen specified fibreglass as the main component for his prefabricated system after witnessing its industrial capacity through the design of grain silos. It is no coincidence that the primary material construction of the just-launched Soviet Yantar reconnaissance satellite was fibreglass, too. The analogue developed by Suuronen here is far from incidental: Futuro had to appear as unsituated as the spacecraft in order to suggest an infinite living potential dynamic. Vision was lent to the chalet’s form through these utilitarian projects that resulted in an oblate spheroid structure — or a mirrored silo dome. Its shape took cues not only from images of the spacecraft but also the demountable characteristics from Archigram’s neofuturistic illustrations such as Plug In City and Walking City, urban propositions of evolving megastructures in constant, perpetual motion. With fibreglass not commonly aligning with domestic ventures (the House of the Future never saw production), Suuronen’s faith rested in plastic’s unique durability and strength coupled with economic feasibility to facilitate conveyor belt production and produce the homes en masse.

Figure 13. Ron Herron, A Walking City (1964). Source: The Archigram Archival Project

The blueprint was simple: a radial diagram similar to MIT’s that located a fireplace at the core, a mechanised kitchenette and bathroom, not dissimilar to Fuller’s patented design, with six commodious reclining units to the outer perimeter. The fibreglass was insulated and sandwiched with polyurethane, and the volume split into sixteen lightweight panels. Spanning 8m across and with a height of 4m — the design was equipped with a band of elliptical windows placed over the fibreglass seam with an aeronautical hatch door as a means of entrance. Whereas the House of the Future’s gadgetry and structural formality was somewhat alien, Futuro appeared entirely intergalactic — as if assembled from a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (also released in 1968) or an issue of Planet Comics. No effort was made to reference the typical home, this was to be so much more: a seemingly out of this world form of living — and this living was to be, quite literally, out of this world. Option dependent, Futuro retailed in the United States upwards of $12 000 (equating to over $80 000 currently).[32] As with the House of the Future, this was not particularly inexpensive: a factor that was to limit a widespread appreciation of the Futuro programme.

Figure 14. Matti Suuronen, Futuro section with variability detailed in plan as both a ‘primary’ and ‘leisure’ type house (1974). Source: Futuro Canada Purchaser Documentation

To exhibit integrity, the structure mirrored a celestial vessel not only in appearance, but also in delivery. Polykem, a Finnish plastics corporation manufactured the components — with a scheme in place to facilitate a truck and/or helicopter to deliver to a nominated destination.[33] Promotional imagery showed the Futuro cable lifted over mountainous terrain — but one had to look twice to confirm it wasn’t the structure, itself, that was flying. An ethical transference of situational freedom to the aesthetic of a physical form extended, too, to its placement. Upon reaching site proportional steel legs atop individual concrete footings permitted positioning — even with regards to more unforgiving terrain up to twenty degrees. This was new technology that required only standard tooling for assembly. The everyman was able to piece together the shell and inhabit the elliptical space within days of receipt — a timeline similar to that of the House of the Future. Likewise, it promoted all things aligned with the time: moulded plastics, automated gadgets and a nomadic pretense where situated place was an option — not a foundation. As per the purchaser documentation, the system demonstrated unlimited growth potential akin to an expandable space station:

Since no internal supports are required in the dome construction, the interior space is entirely flexible. Moreover, any number of additional Futuro shell modules can be directly linked to one another at any time, in a variety of interesting configurations, to create whatever additional space that may be required[34]
Figure 15. A S-64 Skycrane […] recently airlifted a (Futuro) Bank Branch Unit and places it on its site in the main parking area of the Woodbridge Shopping Centre (1972). Source: The Gazette Magazine

Production started as Apollo II landed man on the moon and units rolled off the line with various architectural publications voicing support. Architecture D’Aujourd’Hui stressed Futuro’s innovation by claiming it to be: ‘the first model in a series of holiday homes to be licensed in 50 countries, already mass-produced in the United States, Australia and Belgium [able to] be erected in very cold mountains or even by the sea.’[35] On a more topical level, Playboy ran a feature in September 1970, only to report years later that letters were still coming in — it was their most popular feature to date.[36] In a similarly positive fashion, following a debut at Finnexpo in London, the Daily Mail reported that ‘this object, looking like everyone else’s idea of a flying saucer from outer Space, is the Finnish idea of the perfect weekend cottage’.[37] However, the juxtaposition here revealed the opposite: ultimately the ‘flying saucer’ form was at odds with an ability to function effectively as a cottage.

Figure 16. Futuro: Tomorrow’s House from Yesterday (2003). Source: Desura Publishing
Figure 17. Futuro interior view (1968). Source: http://journal-du-design.fr/

Futuro suffered from its assault on the sedate elegance of mid-century Finnish architecture,[38] which had a comparable effect on an America still comfortable with its understated Modernism. When it landed into more rural settings, as it was so designed, it was met with even more poignant criticism: it failed to offer the nostalgia of the log cabin, the warmth of the fireplace at its core. This was a novel machine-á-habiter, not an Aalto House. Proving more terrestrial than extra, its flight was eventually stifled by the 1973 Oil Crisis that saw material cost triple and Suuronen’s visionary future fall into disrepair sixteen slices at a time. Unlike the space age imagery it had aligned to, its image failed a test of time: it was no Aarnio chair, no Colombo trolley, no Panton lamp. In fact, Futuro had no fail-safe: it was, after all, a made to order living module that was unable to retreat to the attic only to surface triumphant decades later. A commercial failure that was only to become ‘as famous for its otherworldly appearance as for its cult following’[39] — it failed to achieve even modest architectural commemoration. Much like the House of the Future that came before, Futuro had unconsciously bound itself to the retro-kitsch side of its futurism, shying from the widespread practicality it once preached. What Futuro displayed, however, was more profound than its demise. Suuronen had broadly coalesced imagery that typified technological advancement and contextual curiosity into a single cartoonish entity — an entity that was positioned to triumph in a similar manner to that of its source material. However this manifestation, this direct ethico-aesthetic alignment revealed a flaw in the analogue. Critically, it had blindsided present amenity for a painterly image of a future way of life. Futuro displayed a meticulous reflectivism whilst failing to appease a more histrionic code for living that exempted itself from timely fashions. And so, the following decade saw a Dutch architect, designer and sculptor continue this experimentation with new living forms — forms that endeavoured to reflect and manifest a similar ethical code whilst conquering the redefinition of habitation that the House of the Future and Futuro had attempted.

Dries Kreijkamp’s fascination with future living formally began a decade prior to the Bolwoning design, recalling digressions whilst producing crystal spheres for the Royal Dutch Glassworks: ‘We live on a sphere, we are born out of a sphere…why not live in a sphere?’[40] Fortunately a municipality in the southern Netherlands had just received a governmental subsidy directed towards experimental living in 1980 — and so Kreijkamp seized the moment to actualise his infatuations. Like Suuronen before him, he displayed a radicalism that was equal parts eccentric and poetic — underwritten with a stark rationalism aimed at offering a real form to accommodate a new reality. Much like the schemes presented by the House of the Future and Futuro, this was simplistic. A cylindrical element to the base served as a structural plinth akin to the pedestal in MIT’s design, but also accommodated utility and storage spaces. This structure’s open-ended circular top perimeter also operates as a mechanism to interlock the base and the upper volume — a three-storey fibreglass sphere with a 5.5m diameter. A staircase provides the only internal verticality and connects, both physically and visually, the cylindrical and spherical forms. As one spirals from the ground upwards a bedroom occupies a level, followed by a bathroom on a mezzanine space and finally a top living room section with a kitchen — offering a panoramic, naturally lit quality through a band of six circular pivot-style windows. With a total floor space of 55m2 it exceeded that of the Futuro; however this was still a markedly small design with a minimal footprint fundamental to the design’s ethical transgressions related to the pod and house. The fixation upon the pod is evident throughout: ‘the front door [should] mirror that of an aircraft’[41] Kreijkamp noted and the Bolwoningen appear wholly as detachable or self-contained units on the aircraft, spacecraft, or vessel alike. This disconnection was expressed not through isolation but rather separation. The 50 Bolwoningen erected in the Dutch township of Den Bosch are connected by paved diagonals for pedestrian use; with no outdoor seating and private courtyards attached to each residence that are never shared. In effect the design ‘encourage[d] the single-dwellers of the globes to remain introverted and isolated’.[42] In this sense, Kreijkamp posited a more insular futurity — although the system offered expansion potential by way of interconnected units ultimately each Bolwoning was to act as its own, closed-circuit familial nucleus. A family, however, that was limited to only a couple members — a built translation of the projected reduction in the family structure size of the future. Much like the cosmonaut in the spacecraft, it sought to position each tenant as the centre of their own constructed universe: a characteristic fundamental to Kreijkamp’s unitary vision.

Figure 18. Veronica Olivotto, Bolwoningen s-Hertogenbosch (2011). Source http://www.flickr.com/
Figure 19. Dries Kreijkamp, Bolwoningen in plan and section (1984). Source: http://bolwoning.com

This morphological experiment in futurity owes much to the singularity of Suuronen’s Futuro — but also with reference to the curvilinear fibreglass typology posited as a means of translating a spacecraft form to a liveable space. Yet the Bolwoningen bring with them a heightened organic consideration as Kreijkamp endeavoured to provide an ‘optimal experience of nature in all its facets’[43] — an interesting consideration given the perfect spherical geometries he had drafted. The analogue here between the spacecraft and the home could be argued to be less direct and more profound: much in the same way that the vessel in space affords a new perspective on a reality already understood, so too did Kreijkamp’s Bolwoningen attempt to offer a new method of framing known surrounds from a foreign reference point. His spheres were considered not merely as a means of entertaining parallels between the shape of the planet, the spacecraft form and the home — but also as a means of providing heightened efficiency. A Bolwoning could be constructed in a single day, interlocking components were of an entirely prefabricated nature and energy consumption (both in construction and inhabitation) was minimal. Moreover, they displayed an exceptional lightness; at 1250kg even Fuller’s Dymaxion was comparatively weighty. Perhaps Kreijkamp’s own words best serve his intent; the Bolwoningen were to provide: ‘A modern form of living in this time […] a form of cheap, energy efficient, durable, original and comfortable living.’[44]

Figure 20. Ons Verleden Hedentendage, Bolwoningen pre-assembly (2011). Source: https://onsverleden.wordpress.com
Figure 21. Jaap Joris Vens, Bolwoningen assembly on-site in Den Bosch township (1984). Source: http://uncubemagazine.com/

The township of Den Bosch, with its Bolwoningen neighbourhood demonstrates a small-scale, if only momentary, actualisation of a new brand of living — to an extent unmatched by the House of the Future and Futuro programmes. Kreijkamp’s vision, however, extended well beyond this particular Dutch township. As with Suuronen before, though, he failed to convince the world of the broader architectural merits of his work that quickly ensured the demotion of the Bolwoningen from real proposition to temporal anecdote in a broader narrative of architectural history. For decades Kreijkamp himself lived in a Bolwoning and in his passing took with him an acute idealism pertaining to a different way of life designed for a different time. His system itself remained far from fruition: later designs for accessories, mobility and buoyancy[45] only stressed the limitless application of the Bolwoningen — but more profoundly the limitless imagination of their creator. Kreijkamp had created the kind of sustainable autonomous single-family dwelling that Fuller’s Dymaxion had drafted half a century prior — but had transfused this ethic with exemplars of technological imagery found in the spacecraft and its constituents to arrive at a Bolwoning form. And yet, it wasn’t to be. When positioned against the traditional red brick structures of Den Bosch the Bolwoningen presented radical opposition and a depiction of a life-to-be — but ultimately, as with the House of the Future, this appeared too incessantly foreign and inaccessible to enable the design to supersede a traditional typology. Moreover, Kreijkamp’s design displayed a relative consideration not only between man and future home, but future man and home. Bold as this was, it provided a key point of concern for the present man who favoured immediate amenity over that which would reveal itself in the future. Herein lies the failing of the Bolwoning: as with the Futuro it fundamentally compromised utility through a positioning of present life as lesser to that of the future. A future portrait that was, ultimately, wonderfully constructed but decidedly unconvincing.

Figure 22. Ons Verleden Hedentendage, Bolwoningen interior (2011). Source: http://onsverleden.wordpress.com
Figure 23. Aerial photograph of Den Bosch township revealing the Bolwoningen against typical architectural typologies (2012). Source: Google Earth

Why then did the House of the Future, Futuro and Bolwoningen shy from the lasting architectural canon? The navigation of the reciprocal ratio between a futuristic ethic and aesthetic appeared markedly plausible and yet, it wasn’t so. It produced an unsolvable equation that cast designs that attempted this reciprocity into a cryogenic fictional realm, forever frozen into the paradigm that facilitated their inception. As they attempted so wholeheartedly to offer integrity to an ethico-aesthetic interplay, these designs overlooked present amenity and broader socioeconomic variables due to a hopeless devotion to the creation of products for living that in turn had to present as exemplars of their time. A time that was signified not by replicable, sedate scenery — but by that of the spacecraft, its launch and resultant imagery of our planet from afar. These were not idealised scenes of a family by the lake or the backyard sun-saturated against the ranch house: these were beyond ideal. Floating cityscapes with fibreglass pods and technological wizardry was all but confirmed by the arrival of the cosmonaut — the transference of this cartoon, however, to a domestic reality was not. The alignment of the everyman to the cosmonaut by way of a parallel analogue between the house and the spacecraft failed to appease a more principal code for living in favour of an alternate way of life. A way of life that revealed itself to be — more than a future — an amplified present fantasy.

The time had come to rebuild the past.


[1] “Man’s New World: Part II/Tomorrow’s Life Today.” LIFE Magazine, November 11, 1957, 133.

[2] Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 14.

[3] Alan Hess, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture (California: Chronicle Books, 1986), 15.

[4] Pier V. Aureli, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2011), 20.

[5] Stephen J. Garber. “Why Does the Space Shuttle Have Wings? A Look at the Social Construction of Technology in Air and Space.” NASA, April 2001, Accessed May 10, 2016,

http://history.nasa.gov/sts1/pages/scot.html.

[6] Phillip Clark, The Soviet Manned Space Program (New York: Crown Publishing, 1988).

[7] Tony Reichhardt. “The First Photo from Space.” Air & Space November 2006, Accessed May 5, 2016,

http://www.airspacemag.com/space/the-first-photo-from-space-13721411/?no-ist.

[8] Explorer II was a manned U.S. high-altitude balloon that was launched on November 11 1935 and reached a record altitude of 22km.

[9] Clyde T. Holliday. “Seeing the Earth from 80 Miles Up.” National Geographic, October 1950.

[10] Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1968).

[11] The Monsanto House of the Future, directed by David Oneal et al (1957: Anheim, CA: Bay State Film Productions, 2002), DVD.

[12] Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 21.

[13] Joseph J. Corn, Brian Horrigan and Katherine Chambers, ‪Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1984), 82.

[14] “Man’s New World: Part II/Tomorrow’s Life Today,” LIFE Magazine, November 1957, 136.

[15] Joseph J. Corn, Brian Horrigan and Katherine Chambers, ‪Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1984), 82.

[16] Alan Hess, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture (California: Chronicle Books, 1986), 49.

[17] The Monsanto House of the Future, directed by David Oneal et al (1957: Anheim, CA: Bay State Film Productions, 2002), DVD.

[18] Alan Hess, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture (California: Chronicle Books, 1986), 50.

[19] The Monsanto House of the Future, directed by David Oneal et al (1957: Anheim, CA: Bay State Film Productions, 2002), DVD.

[20] The Monsanto House of the Future, directed by David Oneal et al (1957: Anheim, CA: Bay State Film Productions, 2002), DVD.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Alan Hess, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture (California: Chronicle Books, 1986), 51.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Jean Thilmany. “What the House Of Tomorrow Can Teach Us Today.” Mechanical Engineering, December 2014, Accessed May 10, 2016, http://pbli.sh/jLSS.

[25] The Monsanto House of the Future, directed by David Oneal et al (1957: Anheim, CA: Bay State Film Productions, 2002), DVD.

[26] Matt Novak. “Googie: Architecture of the Space Age.” Smithsonian Magazine, June 15, 2012, accessed May 12, 2016, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/googie-architecture-of-the-space-age-122837470/?no-ist.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Alan Hess, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture (California: Chronicle Books, 1986), 16.

[30] Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 142.

[31] Justin McGuirk. “Futuro — the ideal home that wasn’t.” The Guardian, May 10, 2012, Accessed April 4, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/may/10/futuro-ideal-home-wasnt.

[32] Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 140.

[33] Simon Robson. “The Futuro House: Concept and Design.” Accessed April 28, 2016,

http://www.thefuturohouse.com/futuro_house_concept_and_design.html.

[34] Polykem International, The Futuro Fibreglass House: Purchaser Information Sheet (Vancouver: Patent Office of Canada, 1968), 1.

[35] World Architecture. “Futuro House: The retro modern home of the future.” Accessed May 2, 2016. http://www.worldarchitecture.org/authors-links/czeze/futuro-house.html.

[36] “Portable Playhouse,” Playboy Magazine, September 1970, 179–181.

[37] Justin McGuirk. “Futuro — the ideal home that wasn’t.” The Guardian, May 10, 2012, Accessed May 3, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/may/10/futuro-ideal-home-wasnt.

[38] Barry Bergdoll and Peter Christensen, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008), 143.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Gili Merin. “Bolwoning/Dries Kreijkamp.” Arch Daily February 2015, Accessed May 1, 2016,

http://www.archdaily.com/593390/ad-classics-bolwoning-dries-kreijkamp.

[41] Dries Kreijkamp. “The Polyester Globe.” Accessed March 16 2013,

http://www.bolwoning.com/site/default.asp.

[42] Gili Merin. “Bolwoning/Dries Kreijkamp.” Arch Daily, February 2015, Accessed May 1, 2016,

http://www.archdaily.com/593390/ad-classics-bolwoning-dries-kreijkamp.

[43] “Bolwoningen — Globe Housing” Voices of East Anglia, Accessed May 4 2016,

http://www.voicesofeastanglia.com/2012/05/bolwoningen-globe-housing.html.

[44] Dries Kreijkamp. “The Polyester Globe.” Accessed March 16 2013,

http://www.bolwoning.com/site/default.asp.

[45] Ibid.