Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back To The...Futuro...

As an artist, I appreciate artistic design and expression of all types. From painting, to sculpture, to music, to architecture. Creativity is not a single minded attribute. Creativity has many facets, like a gigantic ever evolving gem. A creative style/aesthetic I have always loved is from a niche carved in the 1960's-70's. A very prominent area of design known as Modern and/or Space Age. The section I am going to tap into for this post is the 1970's.

One of my favorite retro shows that aired in the '70's is the first live action series production by Gerry Anderson, "U.F.O."  (You may know him for his puppet driven films, "The Thunderbirds", "Captain Scarlet", etc.) His wife at the time, Sylvia, designed all of the wardrobe. The show did first air in 1970.  It was a big hit with my older brother, so that was pretty much my introduction. The video above is of the opening sequence of the show. It will kind of illustrate the aesthetic I speak of. Plastic blocky dishes. Blow up furniture. Sideburns. Go-go boots. Nehru collars.  Blocky sunglasses and cat-eye make-up.  One of my favorite parts of that intro is when it says "The Future...1980". If 1980 had been more like the show, I would have enjoyed it more.  (*grin*)  In addition to the design aesthetic, I have always had a fascination with the subject of UFO's, or more specifically Flying Saucers.  (A side-bar:  Something that has always irked me is that people have a tendency to call a 'flying saucer' a 'UFO'.  UFO means "unidentified flying object".  If you are calling something deemed to be a flying saucer a UFO, why?  You have seemingly identified it, so call it what it is.  *sheesh*)

Flying saucers.  Real? Not real? Some swear up and down that they have been abducted.  Taken aboard an alien craft by little green (or grey) men for some serious 'probing'.  Betty and Barney Hill.  Travis Walton.  Both are recorded in the Blue Books, the Hills' account being the very first.  I am starting to get away from where I am going with this post, so I am going to veer back a bit.

(Malin House)
I remembered a house in the Hollywood Hills close to where I lived in West Hollywood, California.  It was known as both the "UFO House", and the "Flying Saucer House".  Not so much round as it is hexagonal, it was designed by John Lautner, and is officially known as the Malin House/"Chemosphere".  I went in search of a photo of the house, which of course led me to pictures of other flying saucer shaped abodes.  Didn't discover many, but the ones I did are Interesting, and very cool.

My next discovery is really cool.  A UFO room in the "Tree Hotel" of Sweden. The design of the UFO "room" is really effective (as you can see in the picture above).  Actually, all of the rooms of the hotel are hidden in a forest, perched high in the trees.  The architecture is really beautiful.  I have never seen a place like it before.  I had to include the UFO room in this post for obvious reasons, but I am also including a link to the official page of the hotel.  It is worth checking out, especially from an artistic perspective.  If I am ever in Sweden, I will definitely look it up.  The Tree Hotel, Sweden

(Although all of the above rooms are in the Sanzhi District, you can  see a distinct difference in the photos posted.  The upper-right, and lower left pertain to this entry about the resort.  The upper-left, and bottom-right look like the Futuro structures in the last section.)
One UFO/saucer shape influenced home is cool and sits way outside of the norm, but an entire complex of them?  Built in 1978 in New Taipei City, Taiwan, their original intent was as a vacation resort for US Military officers stationed in East Asia part-time.  They would later be converted into a commercial seaside resort for vacationers.

Sadly, no one would ever stay there, and they would remain uninhabited until their demolition in 2008 (according to several articles I read).  The reasons given are financial troubles, some "unfortunate events", and superstitions about the land being a burial ground.  I could find nothing about more specific info on the "events".  Perhaps they were caused by the unhappy spirits of those buried there?  (Some words from the movie "Poltergeist" spring to mind: "You son of a bitch!  You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn't you?  You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!  You only moved the HEADSTONES!  Lies!  Lies!"  Movie reference concluded...)  It appears that superstitions might have attached a supernatural stigma to the site. Stranger things have happened.  I would be curious to learn more.

Now for my favorite "UFO" themed architectural masterpiece.  (For me, anyway.)  The Futuro.  Designed by architect Matti Suuronen, in Finland, 1968. These roughly 525 square foot, saucer shaped homes, were designed with vacationers in mind.  Actually, Suuronen's intention for them was as a ski cabin.  They were designed to be easily reconstructed, and easy to heat. Rough terrain was no problem.

I want one!  No, I don't have space for one right now, but...another art studio fantasy of mine.  The perfect self contained pod.  Sitting area, dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and a spot smack dab in the middle of it for an elevated fire pit.  I also love the stylized interior.  The modern/space age aesthetic I mentioned before. It looks like fixtures you would find in any SHADO ("Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation") employees' home. Yes, another "UFO" television series reference.

Well, I may want one, but not suprisingly they are fairly rare.  Made in the late-'60's to early-70's, there were less than 100 actually built.  It is estimated that these days there are probably only around 50 that exist.  What's even more unfortunate is the state some of the original structures are in.  I found several pictures of abandoned, and vandalized ones.  So very sad.

By the time the mid-70's rolled around, the Futuro was taken off the market. The main reason was the Oil Crisis, and the exorbitant price of gasoline. Futuro's were constructed from fiberglass reinforced polyester plastic.  The hugely inflated gas prices made plastic expensive.

The above book about the Futuro can be purchased, but you could expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $600 for one.  Also, Finnish Director Mika Taanila made a documentary about the homes called, ""Futuro - A New Stance For Tomorrow", 1998.  I did find some download sites that have it, but the sites are European and only have the PAL format.  Bummer on both counts.

An original proto-type does exist.  It's home is the Museum Boijmans Van Beunigen in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.  I found the following video on Youtube.  It appears to be of a museum docent who is explaining a bit about the history of the futuro, and how it came to be there at the museum.  The information is interesting, but be warned...the gal is rather boring...

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