8.16.2020

the Futuro of Austin!


Having been inspired after designing a polyurethane dome for the roof of a grain silo, Finland's Matti Suuronen designed the Futuro Pod in the late 1960s as an affordable, portable, and mass producible housing solution. Looking exactly like a flying saucer, complete with the retractable staircase, the design earned enough attention to go into production, including out of Philadelphia.

Once ordered, the Futuro would arrive in two halves that were bolted together. All that was needed for installation were four concrete piers, although utilities required additional work. A helicopter could be used for more remote or challenging locations.

The walls including insulation, and the manufacturer claimed the Future could warm up from -20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in 30 minutes once a fire was built in the center fireplace. The original came with built-in furniture, including spacey lounge chairs, as well as a kitchen and bathroom.

Ultimately, the Futuro didn't take off with fewer than 100 manufactured worldwide through the early 1970s. The first installations created an aesthetic backlash, and many cities across the world banned their installation. About 63 have been confirmed to still survive.

As it turns out, one of the 63 Futuros was installed just outside Austin in the Hill Country, and the bride and I were invited out to tour it. I had assumed the owner had bought one and moved it there more recently, but, awesomely, his family actually bought one back in the day directly from the Philadelphia factory. The owners elevated it by a few feet to be able to see downtown Austin from the Pod windows, back before the trees grew in to block the view. They also installed a round circular base under the main body to house the utilities, something Suuronen hadn't really addressed in his original design. The base makes this pod look a bit like a miniature converted water tower.

The Futuro is surprisingly spacious inside as well as bright and airy with windows around the full perimeter and several extras around the back. The original interior is long-gone after several renovations, but the current renovation retains the original open floorplan with only the bathroom (appropriately) enclosed.