If you spotted a Futuro Pod in need of some serious care, could you just walk on by? Craig and Jane Barnes decided they couldn’t.
It’s anyone’s guess how a dilapidated Futuro House came to be parked in a sleepy backwater in South Africa. But for Craig and Jane they fell under an irresistible compulsion to rescue it and get it back to England …. somehow.
This was no mean feat as the Barnes were due to fly home to England the very next day. While the design looks like a 1960s vision of the twenty-first century from Thunderbirds or an alien spacecraft in Star Trek with its acceleration-like couches ranged around the interior, it sadly couldn’t fly.
Now we spin forward eight years, that’s eight years of grit and persistence and today the Futuro House has been beautifully restored and ‘lives’ in Herefordshire. This summer it will be parked in Marston Park, Somerset. The exciting bit is that there is the opportunity to stay in it.
Along the way the saucer has had pit stops in Matts Gallery in East London, a permanent home for a time at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art in Kings Cross, London, and even a trip over the ocean to Le Havre’s summer arts festival in 2019. Today the Futuro House is one of only 68 and a half known to have survived.
The English countryside couldn’t be further from Matti Suuronen’s 1968 commission to design a ski hut for Dr Jaakkoo Hiidenkari. That became a prototype for the Futuro House or Pod, a cleverly designed 16 segment prefabricated kit designed for self assembly, made of fibreglass reinforced plastic with a polyurethane insulation to retain heat. These materials were to ’60s and ’70s design what plywood was to the ’30s, from egg chairs to daleks, fibreglass and plastics offered strength, plasticity and seeming affordability.
“the Futuro in my opinion is the only object that embodies the zeitgeist of the late 60’s pop culture in design, architecture, interior design, culture and lifestyle. Yes there are more successful objects both commercially and practically in each of these fields, but there is no other comparable product that rolls all of these into one immersive experience both inside and out. It was a beacon of belief in there being other and better ways to be at a time when optimism was in plentiful supply. Now more than ever, we need these talismanic artifacts to teach us not just of the failings of the past, but imbue us with their sense of possibility”
The renovation needed herculean determination and, looking back, designer Craig freely admits he had no idea of the level of complexity involved in getting the necessary materials, sympathetically renovating the Futuro and finding a semi-permanent home for it.
There are many factors that contributed to the demise of the Futuro House; big money got involved hoping to roll the kit out by the thousand, which of course was always an overestimation about the interest levels, and the spiking cost of raw materials during the mid ’70s oil crisis.
And so thanks to the commitment of Craig and Jane this wonderful design concept made real has been saved. There’s something so pleasing about the shape and design and curiosity about a pod for living in.
Learn more about artist, curator, technician and restorer of Futuro Houses, Craig Barnes
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All images Copyright of Craig Barnes unless otherwise noted