House of the Future [1960]

Walt Disney Imagineering and MIT

There was a question as to whether ‘in architecture, will atomic processes create a new plastic order?’ and so MIT decided to ‘use plastics as Plastics’ — with vertically opposite cantilevers in place to enforce the material’s strength at scale. Importantly this ‘order’ — stemming from plastic fabrication techniques and structural potentialities — had begun to generate its own aesthetic typology. A mechanised kitchen and bathroom unit sat at the centre above the core, with the four glazed wings cantilevering radially from this point to form the living spaces. Polarised plastic ceiling panels moderated the intensity and type of luminosity, a dishwasher functioned via ultrasonic waves and cold zones replaced refrigerator units and emerged from the ceiling ‘at the touch of a button’. Storage shelves, too, were of plastic fabrication and lowered electronically from overhead. A similarly concealed microwave unit permitted the cooking of various products simultaneously and with haste. A climate control panel was affixed to the kitchen wall above the energy core, offering multi-zone temperature differentiation and even the dispersion of variable scents (such as salted air) to specific rooms. The floors were of vinyl plastic to showcase the material’s durability and ease of maintenance. Such material homogeneity extended into the three bedrooms and fabrics within the House of the Future.

Perhaps the most profound piece of functional gadgetry within the design, a pushbutton telephone intercom unit, was installed that dismissed the need to dial, with an embedded surveillance system facilitating the sighting of guests as they approached the entrance. The overtly curvilinear palette borrowed much from Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion and extended from the outer walls to the furnishings, appliances and partitions. The rooms, too, were furnished with streamline moderne pieces and as summated within the promotional copy the House offered: ‘a dream of the future brought to reality’.

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