There was a time when everyone in the world thought outer space was exciting–not just science types and “Star Wars” fans. Almost everybody loved the concept of space and the future. So, it’s not at all surprising that in 1968, when Dr. Jaakko Hildenkari was looking for someone to design his modern ski chalet that could be easily transported to remote locations, a futuristic design was selected. Matt Suuronen, a Finnish architect, was commissioned and in March of 1968, the Futuro House was unveiled to the world.
The History of Futuro Houses
The specs for the commission required a light weight cabin that was easily transportable through all kinds of terrain and to remote locations. Since oil prices were low, Suuronen used the materials of the day; petroleum-based construction products. The main construction was made of fiberglass reinforced plastic. Polyurethane insulation was used and the home featured an electric heating system which could go from -20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in just 30 minutes.
The standard home was 16 pieces bolted together positioned on a steel frame–a pre-fabricated dream. The finished homes were designed to be 26 feet in diameter and approximately 14 feet high. They could accommodate a cozy 8 guests. The original specs and so many more details can be found here, the ultimate source for all Futuro House information.
The Futuro Houses were originally manufactured by Oy Polykem Ab in Finland before being licensed globally. From 1968 to 1973, about 100 of the Futuro Homes were built worldwide. In 1973, the world-wide oil crisis affected the building materials cost and production of the Futuro Homes was ceased. These homes initially sold for $12,000 to $14,000. Now, if you can find them every once in a while, one will pop up for sale on the internet. In 2017, a woman in New Zealand was selling a very nice one for $290,000.
What Happened to the Homes (And Where to Find a Futuro House in NJ)
Of those approximately 100 homes, it appears that 63 remain world-wide. The Futuro House website actively maintains a list of all known houses still in existence. We are incredibly lucky to have two of them in our own backyard here in South Jersey.
The first Futuro House I visited was in Willingboro, NJ. It now sits just within the boundaries of Willingboro’s Mill Creek Park. I’ve heard it was once a bank in Lakewood. After that, it seems to have been moved to Village Mall in Willingboro. After that it was donated to Willingboro Township and relocated down the road to the park.. Initially, it was used as a guard station and finally as an office for the Recreation Dept. before it fell into its present state of disrepair. It now sits behind a fence in the park, a bittersweet reminder to those of us that loved the dawn of the age of space travel.
The Greenwich Futuro House is even more forlorn. It sits along Hancock Harbor Road, near a little marina. It wasn’t fenced off, so you could access the interior which was completely gutted. This one was originally brought to Woodbridge, NJ in 1972 as the “Sky Bank.” After that, it’s believed it wound up at Wildwood on Morey’s Pier before somehow being left along the shores here in Greenwich. The seagulls seem to be the Futuro House’ biggest fan as it sits forgotten by the Cohansey River.
Not all the remaining Futuro Houses have been left to elements. You can still rent one as a vacation home in WI. In Berlin, you can tour a restored home. A clever marketer turned one into an ice cream shop in IL. And in The Netherlands, you can visit a museum and see a Futuro Home in mint condition.
A Sign of the Times
Father of the Futuro House, Matt Suuronen, died on April 16, 2013 at the age of 79. It should be noted he also designed another prefab modular home–the Venturo. It’s safe to say that when he passed, the love and admiration for his creation lived on among a select group of aficionados of the unusual.
Space–the final frontier. We all know the words, and many feel the power and mystery behind that simple phrase. The Futuro House captures a moment in time. A time when the world felt full of possibilities and hope for the future. The optimism and drive for change in the ‘60s can all be seen reflected in the architecture of the era. The Futuro House epitomizes this moment. It could bring a tear to the eye now to see that promise and hope for the future sitting undisturbed in the woods or by the side of the road.
I’m choosing to see the return of these homes to nature as a positive change, providing a new habitat for wildlife, allowing the land to reclaim what it lost. For me, the Futuro Houses will always stand as a symbol of a time when we all thought the future was full of wonder and anything was possible.
Have you visited either Futuro House in NJ? Let us know in the comments.