When we think of prefab houses, perhaps we think only of what happened in the late 19th century and 20th century.
However, it could be argued humankind has its very roots in accommodating itself in prefab shelters in the form of caves.
Psychologists have interpreted caves in dreams as the womb of planet Earth.
The interior of the Futuro house has been described as being a “plastic womb”. Many of the few Futuro manufactured had either predominantly red or purple interiors.
Futuro prototype interior. © Centraal Museum, Utrecht. Photo: Maurice Boyer
Nowadays the word is associated with minimal flat pack houses, but historically the term has differing connotations in different parts of the world. In the UK it is a quickly built style of temporary housing in the aftermath of the arial bombings of the Second World War such as Airey Houses whereas the American equivalent might be the Lustron Houses of the late 40’s.
Airey Houses, Prior Mede, Harthill. Photo Michael Patterson
The inventor Buckminster Fuller created several Dymaxion Houses from 1926 onwards. Reminiscent of a Yurt, yet made of polished aluminum sheet it was conceived to overcome shortcomings with existing homebuilding techniques. They would be mass produced off site in factories using material and resources most effectively, flat packed for ease of transport, and then assembled onsite with minimum complication.
Dymaxion House, Wichita, Kansas, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller, 1946
Another of Fuller’s projects was his work with Geodesic Domes, which although invented in the 20’s by a German engineer named Walther Bauersfeld, was developed by Fuller to enable it to become a popular form of construction noted for its rigidity and strength whilst containing the maximum volume for the least amount of surface area. As an concept it can be scaled up or down to meet any need.
Autonomous living unit, 1949 Buckminster Fuller © Buckminster Fuller Institute
The fascination with all things plastic in the 1950’s led to The Monsanto House, a development of M.I.T. Displayed at Disneyland in California from 1957 to 1967 when they came to dismantle the building it was so well built they had to call in a wrecking ball to break it down.
Photo Souvenir Guide
Innovations in materials and form of housing were rife in this radical time of new technologies and optimism for the future. In Germany, Dr. Johann Ludowici developed the Kugelhaus in 1958. A twelve foot diameter sphere with all mod cons in, intended to deal with the post-war housing shortage. The idea never caught on, in part because the amount of floor space available is rather minimal in a small sphere.
Kugelhaus, 1958 - Dr. Johann Ludowici in Science and Mechanics January 1961
And then in 1968, the latest idea in how we would all live, or at least vacation, was born. The Futuro was borne of an individual request to the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, but it soon became evident in the design process that this was a structure that could be mass produced as the holiday home of the future.
Futuro Houses, Belgium. Photo: Keystone Press