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Futuro was originally designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as a skiing cabin in the mid-60’s. It actually originated as a post-war product reflecting Europe’s economical growth and the increase of people’s leisure time. Its aesthetic is very characteristic of its time suggesting the need for  distance from the devastating effects of war and also the dream of a high-tech better future. It is very efficient for many reasons. It can be broken to 16 pieces in order to be transferred easier but it can also be carried via helicopter in one piece and be placed on its base which should be already on site. It is additionally highly insulated and its temperature can be changed within a half hour which makes it perfect for a chalet-cabin. Regardless of its odd elliptical shape it feels quite spacious. It has everything one would need from a basic dwelling and in fact for its small size it feels rather luxurious. With so many favourable traits I was extremely surprised to find out that it was received by the public with anger, truly disproportionate to its size or production number.

Left image from futurohouse.co.uk/photos.html / Right: by the writer

Left image from futurohouse.co.uk/photos.html / Right: by the writer

Apparently the first one to be constructed and placed near Lake Puulavesi in Finland faced public protest for being too unnatural. Others that were erected in the USA were vandalised and in some states even banned altogether. Retrospectively I find the extreme reactions that the little lodge received ironic and very curious indeed. Especially since today collectors from all over the world are willing to pay a lot of money in order to buy one and transfer it to their country (which at times costs even more than Futuro itself). It really got me thinking why would a little elliptical object like this one be seen as a threat to the public which could be the only explanation for the hostility it has encountered.

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Even architectural critics dislike Futuro because they consider it a caricature that seems to pop out of a James Bond film or a graphic novel. According to some of them it is a travesty compared to other similar sci-fi specimens designed by Archigram, Buckminster Fuller, Oscar Niemeyer or even more recently Future Systems. One of the reasons is that it lacks urban vision which is for example the basis of Japanese Metabolism Architecture. Modular pieces multiplied organically to create buildings and ultimately whole cities are the concept behind architectural milestones of the genre like the Kurokawa tower.

One of the reasons why it stopped being produced was the 1973 oil crisis which increased its production cost dramatically. Today Futuro is sought after and is often auctioned in very high prices because of its rarity but also due to its kitsch comic-book aesthetics which are tremendously fashionable. This is a vintage flying saucer that looks both old and new and sums up many retro-futuristic traits that have been quite desirable in design the last few years.

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The only Futuro currently on display in UK is found at Matt’s Gallery roof terrace, only for a few more days, specifically until the 14th of December. It is put there as a host of its owner’s Craig Barnes project Centre for Remote Possibilities which he contributes to the gallery’s Revolver exhibition. The project is basically the online streaming of all events, talks, lectures and performances that are scheduled to take place in Futuro during the exhibition. Unfortunately upon my visit I did not have the chance to see any of them. Entering it though and literally bumping into the people who were there for the performance which had just finished it was very difficult not to actually chat with them. I totally ‘blame’ the Futoro for that. Its central open space with peripheral seating makes it impossible not to interact with whoever is there. People are too close to each other and there are no corners to hide in. It seems like a convivial light-hearted space hence my surprise for the attack of hatred it has received throughout its history of existence. It really got me wondering what was it about it that evoked this negativity. The only reason I could think of is that dwellings in general embody roots and traditions and societies are often reluctant to change them. I truly do not find Futuro offensive at all. However I could never be too objective as I am a huge science fiction fan.

You can visit Futuro at Matt’s Gallery until the 14th of December and of course do check out the rest of the Revolver exhibition. There are performances and events happening inside Futuro every day. Find below the link to the live stream or even better see the program and go visit it. Alternatively make a bookmark of Futuro’s website by Craig Barnes to find out the next time that a visit might be possible.

Right image from the Futuro house website http://www.thefuturohouse.com/

Right image from the Futuro house website
http://www.thefuturohouse.com/

Matt’s Gallery website

Craig Barnes website

Find out the program of events and see the live stream of what is happening inside Futuro

Futuro UK website

Check the Futuro of the exhibition before its restoration here

Or if you are interested in locating and buying one check out this website!

Japanese metabolism architecture

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I read about this exhibition by Benedict Drew in London Architecture Diary. All events advertised in this website are either architectural or somehow related to architecture. This explains my surprise when I entered Matt’s Gallery and initially could not detect the relevance. In the first room the visitors were asked to put on headphones and individually listen to the soundtrack of a video that was projected on a screen.

heads-may-roll1The room was totally white with the light equally diffused from the false ceiling which reminded me a lot of Kubrick’s 2001 Odyssey spaceship-interior. This impression was further verified by the statements projected on the screen which urge the visitor to consider the absence of an outside world.  In the room though the images of unidentified objects, elements of weird texture and dismembered limbs accompanied by digitised sounds do not exactly feel cosy or familiar either. Then one has to go through a curved corridor covered with some sort of aluminium foil.

heads-may-roll2Again a futuristic reference but an almost comedic one as the material looks cheap and it is lined with Christmas lights. After the sci-fi pseudocave one enters a large room with various different things in it: raised platforms, projections, microphones and peculiar sound installations. The sound equipment used look almost retro and the gadgets are connected in an amateur way. The dominant projection in this room is that of a man crying in what seems to be an environment without gravity as the tears stay in his eye cavities without running down his cheeks.

heads-may-roll3Under one of the platforms is an unidentifiable mass of a thing, a blob, that seems to be breathing and close to that, an anthropomorphic mop-creature that once in a while bangs a stick on a drum. There is a sadness in this room. Last but most definitely not least there is a hole in the wall (as if an explosion has occurred), which is covered with red cellophane and through it the canal outside is visible. Everything is red as if something horrible has happened, like an nuclear holocaust. I was fascinated by this incredibly simple intervention on the wall and I cannot stress how intense its effect was.

After looking at the red view of the canal everything fell into place, the connection of the exhibit to architecture as well. First of all I realised that the effect of the red view was so intense because of what had proceeded it. The disconnection from reality and the environment, the hoax of the high-tech promise, the loneliness. To my understanding the narrative of the exhibit actually comes across and makes its point through architectural terms.

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Our lives are spent in front of computers on the internet and they do unfold in a sort of a space which is virtual  with no real texture or continuity. This is no news to anyone but we choose to turn a blind eye to the negative points because of the gains in speed and availability of knowledge. In fact by now the disconnection with one another and with real environments due to technology is almost a cliché. Still I do not recall having witnessed lately an expression of this gap as immediate as the one achieved with this exhibit. Maybe this is due to the fact that space is the medium through which the story is told. This is the reason why the message of this exhibit regardless of being obvious is so powerful. Architecture and space are understood and appropriated first viscerally and then cerebrally. And as far as I am concerned the visceral and the experiential overpowers the cerebral with its ambiguity and vagueness nine times out of ten.

The exhibition will be on until the 20th of April

Benedict Drew’s website here

Matt’s Gallery website here

London Architecture Diary website here

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