Otherworldly Architecture: the Strange Ubiquity of the UFO House


Right around the age of ten, I became obsessed with UFOs.  I read every book on UFOs I could find, watched every stupid alien abduction movie, and scoured the night sky with a cheap telescope.  In retrospect, I think I’d just started to grasp the basic outlines of life and I desperately wanted to believe that there was something more out there.  But nope, there isn’t.  Life really is this boring.  My aliens obsession was a perfectly fine coping mechanism for the next few years, until I discovered the best coping mechanism of all,  alcohol.  (Hasn’t failed me yet!)

Possibly this explains why there are so many damn UFO houses in America.  I mean, there are a ton.  UFO-shaped novelty houses outnumber every other sort of novelty house combined.  Maybe it’s because these people despaired that contemporary architecture was so bland and functional, and so they wanted to make something otherworldly?  Does that make sense?  I don’t know.  Let’s just look at some wacky photos.

futuro-house-7The Futuro house was a mass-produced modular house from the Sixties.  Designed by the Finnish architect Maati Suuronen, they were made entirely of plastic and meant to be used as cheap, easily-assembled ski cabins.  Only 96 were sold before the oil crisis made the cost of plastic skyrocket, but most of them have been preserved as tourist attractions.  I guarantee there are people out there whose life’s main accomplishment is that they’ve visited all the remaining Futuro houses in the world.  I pray I never run into one of them on a dating site.

ServeAttachmentLook, a matching set!  These Florida houses are for, like, a married couple who both believe that the same aliens who built the pyramids jump-started human evolution by injecting apes with extraterrestrial DNA, but the husband snores really loudly and is a huge slob, so they need separate residences.  They’re connected by a walkway though, so if one of them needs to borrow the other’s copy of “Communion” by Whitley Streiber, they can just zip right over.

Larry and Toni Winkler bought the Sleeper House from John Dilday, who bought it at a foreclosure sale. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver PostImagine you’re hiking up a wooded slope in the Rocky Mountains and suddenly you see this hovering above the trees.  Terrifying.  But wait, put that shoulder-mounted ground-to-air missile down – it’s just the Colorado Flying Saucer house.  Built in 1963 by the architect Charles Deaton, this house was wacky enough to make an appearance in Woody Allen’s sci-fi comedy “Sleeper.”  The house boasts five levels and 5500 square feet of space; the master suite, at the very top of the house, has some of the best views in the Rockies.  Incredibly, this modernist gem was sold in a foreclosure auction in 2010 for the relatively low price of $1.5 million.  I was jealous for a moment and then I remembered that it’s in Colorado, world capital of white people with dreads who compulsively quote “The Big Lebowski.”

la-hm-john-lautner-chemosphere-photos-009This LA house is called the “Chemosphere.”  Sounds like the name of a corny German techno duo.  So it’s probably no coincidence that a real-life corny German actually lives there – Benedikt Taschen, the publisher of all those kitschy Taschen photo books that are always shrinkwrapped at the bookstore.  (At least the ones I want to look at are.)  This house languished on the market for almost a decade, while Spanish-style and “shabby chic” came and went.  Now that mid-century is a thing, it’s probably one of the most coveted properties in the city.  It took a huge renovation to turn it into the house it is now, though – when Taschen first bought the house, it had been rented as a “party house,” and the interior was covered in filthy wall-to-wall carpeting and seven layers of paint.  I don’t know, I guess I just don’t see the problem?

MW-EA352_flying_20151202131933_ZHThis UFO house in San Francisco is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the mass-produced Futuro House.  Recently listed for just under $21 million, the Felton Estate was custom built for a rich tech guy named Bob Felton who wanted a house with no right angles.  He sounds like the type of guy who counts all the Cheerios in his bowl before he eats them.  This incredible house has a 60 foot pool, a 2000 square foot living room, a 16 car garage, and will set you back 21 grand a month in real estate taxes.  (In addition to your estimated $77,500 monthly mortgage payment.)  Even if you can afford it, buying this house is probably a dumb idea.

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