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Icon of 1960s Design: Matti Suuronen's Futuro House (Video)

Posted: 07/17/11 04:27 AM ET

In 2007, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands came into possession of the prototype of a quite spectacular piece of architecture: Finnish architect Matti Suuronen's Futuro, the "House of the Future". With its distinctive flying saucer like shape Suuronen's Futuro is an icon of 1960s design. It reflects the optimistic vision of the future and the utopian spirit of that time.

In 1965, Matti Suuronen was commissioned to design a mobile holiday home that could be erected in poorly accessible skiing areas. The house had to be lightweight, easy to transport and deploy, and suitable for serial production. Suuronen came up with a design that consisted of two parts: the main body made of polyester, and a steel structure as a base. Originally, the idea was to transport the "portable playhouse" as a whole beneath a helicopter.

The Futuro came in different colors such as white, yellow or light blue, and also varied regarding the design of the steel legs, and the number of windows. But the basic elliptic shape was always the same. According to Matti Suuronen, the form of the main body of the Futuro is based purely on mathematics, while the idea for the steel leg foundation came to him when looking at the eggcup on his breakfast table.

When the Futuro was first presented at a fair in London in October 1968, there was great interest among the public. As a result the manufacturer, Polykem, decided to start mass production of the Futuro. The company even launched a whole series of prefabricated houses designed by Matti Suuronen. Unfortunately the oil crisis of 1973 thwarted the company's plans and the production was halted prematurely.

There are still a dozens of Futuros spread across the world. The Futuro hasn't been always used according to its original purpose as ski cabin or normal leisure house. It has also been used as a bank, a restaurant, and as an exhibition space. Finally it became an art object itself. In 1990 the Finnish artist Jusi Kivi rented the prototype, Futuro no. 000, for one of his exhibitions. In 1996 it was the highlight of Belgian artist Carsten Höller's exhibition at the Secession in Vienna. And the German advertising-designer, artist and photographer Charles Wilp put a Futuro on the roof of his house. Wilp invited many celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Yves Klein and Mel Ramos to his Futuro, and wrapping artist Christo enclosed it with a plastic foil.

The light blue-colored prototype of the Futuro is now on display for the first time after its restoration. The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen currently showcases it as centerpiece of the exhibition "Futuro: Constructing Utopia," which also presents twenty prints and approximately a hundred design objects from the museum's collection.

On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition VernissageTV met with Jonieke van Es, the Head of Collections & Research at Museum Bijmans Van Beuningen. In the video above, she talks about the history and concept of the Futuro, how the prototype came into possession of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and how it was restored, the Futuro's relevance as a design icon, and its future use at the museum.

 

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