The Futuro House

The Futuro House was conceived by Matti Suuronen in 1968 as a "portable" ski chalet. It is an iconic piece of architecture and this site is devoted to documenting the history of the Futuro and the current status and whereabouts of the remaining examples.





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Location Information

Purple Fashion - Idyllwild Futuro - Date Unknown

Futuro, Idyllwild, California, USA - Google Maps Screenshot

  • Location | Idyllwild, California, USA (Vicinity Only - Exact Location Withheld)
  • Lat/Long | Exact Location Withheld
  • Previous Location | 3601 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, USA
  • Previous Lat/Long | 32°44'37.29"N 117°9'36.08"W
  • Image By Purple Fashion | Date Unknown
  • Google Maps | 043017 (Screenshot Only - Exact Location Withheld)
  • Latest Confirmation | 120219
Info, History, Photos


Update 120719

CNN published a nice article titled "This flying saucer is one man's vacation home" 120219. The article provide a little general Futuro history along with a few historical details about this Futuro. Journalist Anna Bahney contacted us while researching the article and we contributed to the article particularly in respect of the numbers of Futuro known to still exist.

The article was also accompanied by the video below which includes great footage of the Futuro and an interview with owner Milford Wayne Donaldson that was filmed inside the Futuro.


Update 021118

Photographer Tom Blachford's ongoing photographic series "Midnight Modern" is described as being "an ongoing series and exploration into the interplay between Architecture, Moonlight, Mountains and the tension of an unspoken narrative". We do not pretend to "get" art and we have no clue how to interpret the phrase "tension of an unspoken narrative" in the context of the photos but we will say this - the photo of this Futuro shown below, one of those in Series IV of "Midnight Modern" is absolutely one of our favorite all time Futuro photos.

At the time of writing through 030318 "Midnight Modern Series IV" is on display in Sydney, Australia at the Michael Reid gallery. The Futuro photo is available for purchase at $3500 unframed and $4700 framed, a little "rich for our blood" despite the fact that we do love the photo.

Midnight Modern Series IV - Futuro I By Tom Blachford

Update 120416

We recently added this drawing of the Idyllwild Futuro by Danny Heller to the "Drawings" section of the "Bits & Pieces" page after we saw it on Instagram. Then we decided we needed to add it to our collection and so this past week we purchased the drawing. It will look great once it is framed and hung.

Danny Heller Drawing Of Idyllwild Futuro

Update 032016

The video below, Karleen by Mora Mora, includes both exterior and interior footage of this Futuro. The Futuro first appears 2:03 into the video.


Update 031515

A couple of weeks ago the "day job" took us to California for a conference. Not that it is anything to do with the Futuro for some reason the conference organizer's saw fit to place an IT conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim and let us tell you, you sure do "pay for the mouse".

Anyway we added a couple of days out in California after the conference and on 022615 we were able to visit the Idyllwild Futuro. Our thanks to owners Wayne & Laurie for inviting us to visit their Futuro.

The drive from Anaheim up into the San Jacinto Mountains was in and of itself an experience as we climbed to around 6,500 feet above sea level and came across many stunning views along the way. It was also interesting to think of the journey the Futuro took; having driven the route and experienced some of the steep slopes and tight bends on the two lane highway we had a much better understanding of how challenging that trip must have been for a flatbed carrying a fully assembled Futuro House.

The location of the Futuro itself is on a rocky "summit" in the town of Idyllwild. From the Futuro every direction leads down and, while there are houses and other structures around (some of which are actually quite close), it actually feels quite isolated.

Most of the time the Futuro has protective coverings on the inside of the windows which can be seen in our first photos which were shot when we first arrived and prior to entering the Futuro and removing the coverings. It is interesting how different the Futuro actually looks when the windows appear "white". It is a somewhat sad comment on how observant (or more accurately unobservant] we are that despite knowing we needed to remove the window coverings we took a large number of photographs without noticing the "white" windows before we noticed that the window coverings were still in place.

It is interesting, having been on site, to consider how challenging moving the Futuro from the flatbed to its current location must have been. Wayne tells us that this was accomplished at night, and a foggy night at that. In addition the boom of the crane enlisted for the job of hoisting the Futuro from the flatbed in the street below to the Futuros final location turned out to be five feet too short and Wayne recalls that the unit had to be "swung" into its final position.

Period documents (such as this one courtesy of the Hedberg Public Library) indicate that US Futuros were manufactured in eight sections with four quarters being joined mechanically and sealed to create two hemispheres, an upper and a lower. In addition there are several examples of Futuros being delivered in just this fashion; for such an example see historical information relating to the Frisco Futuro's original delivery from the factory.

Interestingly with this Futuro there are two evident vertically oriented "joins"; it seems to us that if the joins were sealed at the time of manufacture either they would still be evident in which case we would see four vertically oriented joins or they would not be visible in which case we would not see any evident joins and yet here we see two. Perhaps the unit was "sealed" into a right and left hemisphere rather than an upper and a lower?

When Wayne & Laurie restored their Futuro some ten or so years ago the exterior finish used was estimated to have a life of around eight years. Given the location of the Futuro, at 6,500 feet above sea level in an area that receives very strong sunlight, the finish chosen included a high content of UV inhibitors and it has performed very much to expectation.

Over the last year or so as the finish passed its expected life the upper surfaces of the Futuro have started to show some signs of fading and "flaking". It was expected that the exterior would require maintenance from time to time and Wayne & Laurie will be refinishing the Futuro this summer utilizing the same formula and paint manufacturer as was originally used; a testament to the quality of the finish chosen.

The interior of the Futuro is in excellent condition and, while it has not been restored to exact original Futuro specifications, it is absolutely appropriate to the "period" of the Futuro complete with popcorn ceiling and shag carpet. In addition there are a number of collectibles dotted around the interior that are "space themed" which seems highly appropriate to a Futuro.

Despite the extensive work done so far more remains and further work Wayne & Laurie have planned for the interior of the Futuro includes the installation of a "bubble skylight" and a George Nelson lamp at the same time as the exterior is painted. The iconic central fireplace will not be returned to the Futuro due to the fire codes in force in the Idyllwild area.

Once again we would like to extend our sincere thanks to Wayne & Laurie for allowing us to visit their Futuro and share the photographs below.

As previously mentioned most of the time there are protective covers on the inside of the windows. Of course we knew this but completely forgot and shot a large number of photographs without even noticing the "white" windows.

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Having removed the window coverings it was time for another photography session. Of course we had missed one window in the bedroom and again failed to notice.

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As always we felt the irresistible urge for the obligatory "tourist" photos with the Futuro.

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Finally having removed all of the window coverings we had to go back and reshoot many of the photographs we had already taken. We probably took way too many photos; thank goodness for the digital camera, it would have been an expensive exercise in the old days of film and prints. This series of photos shows the exterior from just about every viewpoint.

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These next few shots are not really "Futuro" shots; we just happen to like the focus on the trees in the foreground and the out of focus Futuro behind.

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And up the steps we go!

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This next series of photographs illustrates the interior of the Futuro.

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In keeping with both period and design the Futuro has been decked out with a number of rather appropriate "space themed" collectibles such as this Space Shuttle Salt & Pepper Set.

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Update 121313

The video below, "No Needs" by The Entrance Band features the Idyllwild Futuro as the backdrop staring around 2:38 and also again during the credits around 4:07.

The video is a collaboration between Argentine-American musician Paz Lenchantin and Amanda Charchian. Charchian in an interview on vmagazine.com tells us that they:

"... definitely wanted to get across the feeling that there was a unity, a synchronization coming out of six unique bodies. The film features a Futuro House designed by Matti Suuronen that acts as a spaceship the rainbow bodies descend from."

We are no way folks who could be considered artistic or creative; the esoteric tends to fly well above our heads but the video features a Futuro and so it definitely earns a place on these pages and, to be honest, while the we do not necessarily "get it" as far as the meaning is concerned the music is not too bad at all.


Original Information 101511

Futuro - On The RoadIn December 2004 Futuro owner Milford Wayne Donaldson oversaw the move of his "baby" from San Diego to a rocky Idyllwild mountain top in the San Jacinto Mountains of California. Donaldson had purchased the Futuro that had been located in Hillcrest Canyon, San Diego since 1977 in 2002 and after, being at a temporary location for refurbishment, it was making the move to what Donaldson hoped would be its final home.

Considering the Futuro had ease of transportation as one of its primary design considerations the five hour journey was perhaps a little more complex than one might have imagined. Preparing for the trip involved months of extensive planning. A passable route had to be devised; not too difficult on the freeway portion of the journey maybe but once up in the mountains there were sections where clearance dropped to inches and trees had to be trimmed to allow the Futuro through. There was the flatbed to arrange, pilot cars to arrange, highway patrol escorts to arrange and permits to obtain.

Luckily for Donaldson a good friend of his was in the moving business. Larry Wood was the owner of San Diego Boat Movers and it was his company that, ever so carefully, transported the Futuro. Wood was quoted as saying:

"We've moved a lot of strange things, but that's the first flying saucer house we've ever moved."

All in all it was a seriously significant undertaking. A SignOnSanDiego.com article dated January 2nd 2005 perhaps sums up most aptly the kind of challenge the movers faced:

Futuro - Flatbed
"And in downtown Idyllwild, the entire crew held its breath while more measurements were taken before the Futuro, which measures 26 feet wide, headed for its tightest squeeze: Only 4 inches to spare, ideally 2 on each side, between hefty trees that hug the road. Driver Larry Wood cleared it on the first try."

An image of the Futuro on the road is top left (source: JoelInSouthernCA). You can see clearly the Futuro overhanging both sides of the roadway and the vehicles that had to pull completely off the road to get out of the way. The image above right is from the moving company's website, San Diego Boat Movers, and shows the Futuro on the flatbed before being wrapped in its protective "blanket".

Donaldson is an architect and has restored his Futuro to mint condition following strict Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Restoration in the hope that one day he may be able to get the unit placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This Futuro and in particular it's move attracted a great deal of attention including an article in CA Modern Magazines Winter 2007 edition and you can read more about it in "Falling For A Futuro" on the Eichler Network and "Close Encounter" on SignOnSanDiego.com

These two photos from BauNetz were shot by owner Milford Wayne Donaldson FAIA when the Futuro was being "landed" in Idyllwild.

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Sources
In Books & Magazines
Latest Confirmation

This CNN article published 120219.

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