1960s Futuro House hosts sci-fi sleepovers in Somerset
Futuro House, the sci-fi, 1960s pod design of Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, has been transported to Marston Park in Somerset, UK – and now you can even stay there
If the past year’s events have you dreaming of travel, nature, out-of-this-world experiences and faraway places, the sci-fi, 1960s set of a futuristic pod in the middle of the leafy English countryside might be just the thing for you; time to head off to Somerset, where the modernist vision of Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, the Futuro House, has been revived at artistic retreat Marston Park.
Futuro House was first conceived in 1968 as a ‘portable’ rural holiday retreat. An evolution of the Nordic cabin, crossed with an architectural pavilion and infused with modernist optimism and an eye for the future, this pod felt innovative back then – and it still does so today, all sweaping curves and functional, aerodynamic design, wrapped up in the shape of a mini spaceship on stilts.
A limited number of the pods were made, and were installated in various places across the globe. One ended up in Port Alfred, South Africa, in a neighbourhood that was the childhood home of Craig Barnes, now a London-based artist. The Futuro House was part of the ‘wallpaper’ of Barnes’ youth, but as the years went by it became more and more derelict. During a trip to Port Alfred some ten years ago, he saw it again.
‘Some workers were knocking down a building nearby and we thought perhaps they were going to tear it down too,’ says Barnes. ‘It was a wreck, there was no front door left, the windows were smashed in, but they let us in. It was horrible and grotty, but we found out who owned it. On an impulse while on top of Table Mountain, we agreed to buy it. So we bought it and shipped it home.’
The structure was transported to the UK, where it was lovingly restored and exhibited in various locations in London – including a residency at the rooftop of Central Saint Martins in 2015. It was during this time that Michael Fenna, director of Marston Park, spotted it.
‘I first saw it when it was exhibited at Central Saint Martins and I immediately thought, this has to come here!’ Fenna recalls. ‘It was a long process to work out logistics and timings but now it’s ready. The Futuro at Marston Park will be the first in what we hope will be a long line of collaborations with artists, architects, designers and ingenious folk from the world over. It sets the tone for what we want this place to become – an exhilarating Pandora’s box of unique cultural experiences.’
Part camping site, part artistic escape and experience, Marston Park, which opened in May 2021, is set in an idyllic location, circling a lake and engulfed in greenery. Within it, Futuro House is nestled among mature trees, just steps from the water.
‘It was always important to me that wherever it goes, it functions as a space to live and experience – an inspiring place that everyone can see,’ says Barnes. ‘I never wanted this to be something that you cannot touch. I believe in the power of art and architecture and how it affects us. We have never opened [the house] up as a rental before; we hadn’t found the right home for it. At Marston Park they want to make unique experiences and there is a realm for artworks you can stay in and people are interested in that. It is the fulfilment of a longstanding dream to offer this womb-like structure for people to stay in and be in this otherworldly space.’
This launch marks the beginning of an architecturally exciting time for Marston Park. Fenna has big plans in the pipeline, working on more striking architecture to add to the park in the next years – from one-off follies to sensitive retreats that draw directly on the surrounding nature and the English countryside experience, and creative workshop areas to nourish mind and soul. This space is one to watch.
For now, the Futuro House stands as a symbol of what’s to come. And with just 69 and a half Futuros left in existence, the chance to spend the night in one is ever-more precious. ‘It’s a sculpture that I have been working on for years, restoring it, curating it, programming it,’ concludes Barnes. ‘But I don’t want to hide it from the world. I want to share it.’ §