There’s not much beyond modern mansions, traditional Texas ranchland, and self-storage warehouses along Royse City’s State Highway 276. I’m 30 minutes from the nearest city, and fields and farms stretch in all directions. I smell the cows before I see them. The hot summer’s day has led the herd to a watering hole where one smart soldier is fully submerged.
This small Texas town is the last place I’d expect to find a trippy bit of Finnish architecture, and yet, here lies one of 63 Futuro house skeletons scattered around the world. Designed in the 1960s as a posh, modular ski chalet, Finnish architect Matti Suuronen had high hopes that the pods would transform the art of vacationing.
Today, the structural remnants are relics representative of New-Age optimism and technological promise. Unlike the modular home’s intergalactic inspiration, a handful of the flying saucer-shaped structures can still be found if you know where to look.
A journey through space and time
The gravel grinds under my wheels as I roll to a stop on a winding backcountry road. The strange space landing zone in front of me has been dubbed “Area 276” by locals. Aside from the Futuro house, the lot is otherwise abandoned.
Since I first visited a year ago, the building’s exterior has undergone a major facelift with a coat of fresh orange paint, temporarily erasing evidence of the profanities once sprayed across it. The once overgrown grass has been groomed around the house, with no sign of the fire ants that found refuge in my shoes during my last visit. There’s one more peculiar addition to the field: A “For Sale” sign has popped up next to the Futuro house.
I’m not the only one drawn to this Texas field. “I drove past it one day, and thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’” says Simon Robson, founder of TheFuturoHouse.com. One sighting and he was hooked; today, Robson is a self-proclaimed expert on all things Futuro.
“One thing led to another and it turned into—I don’t know what you’d call it. An obsession? An interest?” Robson says. “At one point I thought I would find them all and then that would be it, but there is always something more to learn. I’d find another one, then I’d find another one, and it just kind of snowballed from there.” Robson has since become a recognized source for connecting the Futuro community, which includes enthusiasts from all around the world.
As the design of the homes gained international prominence in 1968, the business model was licensed geographically for global production, and attracted a cult following for years to come.
The U.S. Futuro houses were manufactured in New Jersey in eight segments and airdropped by helicopter to their new owners.
Production was halted by the mid-1970s, but Robson has managed to collect hundreds of Futuro-related items. He’s in contact with more than 50 current Futuro homeowners and hopes that he will one day be added to that exclusive group. Until then, he plans to continue to maintain and polish his internet database and perhaps open a museum to house his memorabilia.
Around the world
Over the decades, people have found several ways to repurpose the unique structures. In the early ’70s, some were used as bank branches, one served as a snow-cone stand, and one is still perched atop a strip club in Florida.
As I walk around the Royse City pod, I can understand why the homes may have been a tough sell. With one open room spanning 26 feet across, it’s nearly impossible to incorporate plumbing and service spaces. The original marketing materials advertised it for eight people, but as Robson jokes, you’d have to be “very comfortable” with those folks. Robson knows of only one couple who resides in a Futuro full-time, in Houston, Delaware. Another family in Kentucky keeps one furnished as an exterior media room.
For those looking to try before they buy, Area 55, a renovated Futuro house located in Joshua Tree, California, is available to rent on Airbnb. For around $215 per night, guests gain full access to a trippy glamping stay in the middle of the MojaveDesert.
Whether you’re on a mission to find them all or are satisfied by a glimpse of a Futuro in the wild, these kooky spaceship homes certainly left their mark around the U.S. and beyond. All I know is that as I walk away from the farmland flying saucer in Royse City, I already want to find the next one.