Futuro


Futuro 1969

In the late 60’s my husband and I purchased 10 acres of French Creek located in Pennsylvania.  Being in the design business, and not wanting to disrupt the land, I decided to search for an architecturally unique prefab house. The Futuro House seemed like a perfect choice. It had been manufactured in Finland, and my husband, Warren Browne, and myself hoped that we could manufacture it in the U.S. We wrote to the manufacturer, who informed us that Leonard Fruchter had purchased the rights to manufacture it in the US. During a meeting with Warren Browne and Leonard Fruchter, who was President, Warren Browne was offered the role of Vice President and accepted.

We never did purchase a Futuro House for our land as Leonard Fruchter wanted to change the design. I always questioned why???? The design was beautiful as is. The Futuro Corp. purchased an original Futuro House and placed it in Philadelphia that sat in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for 6 months.

As a product of 60's Finland the Futuro House was born of a society comfortable in the same euphoric times as the rest of the western world. A faith in technology and a strong economy that offered the hope of a higher standard of living and more leisure time typified the times. The original impetus for the creation of the Futuro came from Dr. Jaakko Hiidenkari who, in 1968, commissioned Finnish architect Matti Suuronen to design a ski chalet to be located in Janakkala in central Finland and then elsewhere. Suuronen's initial idea was for a prefabricated ski-cabin and seemed very natural given the times. The cabin would be light and therefore easy to transport to remote locations, easy to construct once on site in unforgiving landscapes and efficient when it came to heating and retaining heat in very cold locations. 

The Futuro House was manufactured in Finland by Oy Polykem AB and was also licensed for manufacture in a number of other countries.

In order to meet the primary design criteria the main construction material chosen for the Futuro House was a fiberglass reinforced plastic. Derived from oil in a time when oil was cheap a plastic met all of the requirements; it was relatively cheap and easy to work with, it was light and it offered good insulating characteristics.

 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. The segments of the elliptic envelope are assembled on the site using a metal footing. Through its shape and materials used, the house can be erected in very cold mountains or even by the sea. The area is 50 sq m, the volume 140 cubic m, divided by adaptable partitions.

By the mid 1970s, the house was taken off the market. From the beginning, it had been met with public hostility. The first Futuro that was erected near Lake Puulavesi in Finland elicited public protest because it looked too unnatural for the rustic environment. In the United States Futuro houses were banned from many municipalities by zoning regulations. Banks were reluctant to finance them. Some were vandalized. Some customers who committed to buy them backed out and forfeited their non-refundable $1000 deposits. Some have been destroyed. In 1999, the City of Tampa ordered a Futuro demolished.Shortly after the turn of the century, a Futuro house was purchased on Broad Kill Beach, Delaware, and destroyed to make way for a double-wide modular home . Some have been vandalized in drive-by shootings. The oil crisis of 1973 ripled gasoline prices and made manufacture of plastic extremely expensive. Less than 100 were originally made and it is estimated that today around 60 of the original Futuro homes survive, owned mostly by private individuals. The prototype (serial number 000) is in the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The Futuro no. 001, the only other Futuro currently in a public collection, is in the possession of the WeeGee Exhibition Centre in Espoo, Finland

A UK artist, Craig Barnes, purchased and restored a Futuro house in 2013-14. He had discovered the wreck whilst on holiday in South Africa and had it shipped back to the UK before commencing restoration. The Futuro house - the only one in the UK - is now on display to the public as part of an exhibition on the rooftop of an East London Gallery (until December 2014); the house was featured on the fourth series of the Channel 4 programme George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.

Article just published by houzz.com in may 2016 received a large response which tuned me into my past.

Dolores Browne, BArch