Back to the future: Restoration project sees first Futuro house returned to its original sci-fi glory

Futuro 001 ExteriorThe very first Futuro home has been put on display at the WeeGee Exhibition Centre in Finland, its country of birth, following a painstaking restoration project which has seen the iconic home returned to its original glory.

Designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968, the Futuro looks as striking today as it did 40 years ago. Named the perfect bachelor “Playhouse” by Playboy in 1970, it’s surely more attractive to sci-fi and design geeks today.

The result of a project to build a convenient, versatile ski lodge that wouldn’t be difficult to heat, Futuro number 001 was owned by Finnish actor Matti Kuusla, and it stood on the edge of a lake in southern Finland from 1968 until 2011, when the Espoo City Museum acquired it for restoration.

As with many other 1950s and 1960s designs, it’s unashamedly “futuristic,” with its elliptical shape and oval windows recalling classic visions of flying saucers. Between 60 and 100 Futuro houses were built, but it wasn’t meant to be such a rarity, as there were hopes it would become a mass market hit. The early 70s oil crisis raised the price of plastic — from which it’s made — drastically, and it became too expensive to produce and sell at a reasonable price.

Following the restoration of its glass-fiber reinforced polyester shell, Futuro 001 was transported in pieces — just like it was designed to be — to the exhibition center, where it was reassembled and work could begin on the interior.

A Facebook page details what followed, and gives us a glimpse of what it would have been like to purchase and build a Futuro home all those years ago.

Futuro 001 Interior

Walking up the drop-down steps takes you into the circular main living area, where a series of reclining chairs surround the central fireplace, and small doors or stairways take you to the bathroom, sleeping quarters and kitchenette. A reporter from The Guardian described it as a “totally artificial environment” and a “plastic womb.”

The futuristic design will always split opinion, with some loving its now retro look and others considering it a plastic monstrosity. It could also easily be from the set of any seminal 70s sci-fi, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange or even Space 1999.

Originally sold in both Finland and America, the Futuro would have cost around $15,000 when it was new, which is the equivalent of just under $100,000 today, but a recent auction at Christie’s in Paris saw an unrestored example sell for $180,000.

Ikea, from Finland’s Nordic neighbor Sweden, recently announced the Aktiv, a “flat-pack” home costing $86,000, which could be seen as the modern — though considerably less appealing design-wise — equivalent to the Futuro.

Several Futuro homes remain in use throughout America too, and a 2005 feature in The New York Times covered one being used as a home theater in Illinois, the owner of which curates a website dedicated to discovering other Futuro homes around the world. Rather fittingly, the site was clearly made in the early days of the Internet, and encapsulates the same “futuristic” style as the Futuro itself.

Futuro number 001 went on display at the WeeGee Exhibition Centre on May 8, where it will remain until September 16, making up part of Helsinki’s celebrations as Design Capital 2012.