Matti Suuronen: The Futuro House from 2 June to 12 September 2021
The Exhibition Centre WeeGee, Tapiola
The Exhibition Centre WeeGee has acquired the first ever mass-produced Futuro house (no. 001), which was owned by Matti Kuusla from summer 1968 to autumn 2011 and located in Hirvensalmi. After being carefully restored, the house opened in WeeGee’s yard in 2012. The Futuro house at WeeGee will be open to public in summer during WeeGee’s regular opening hours.
The Futuro is a plastic house designed by architect Matti Suuronen (1933–2013). Elliptical in shape, the house captures the experimental forms, new materials and optimistic ideas of the space-age architecture and design of the late 1960s.
FROM SKIING LODGE TO INTERNATIONAL FAME
A request from an old school friend of architect Matti Suuronen, the Futuro house was originally commissioned as a skiing lodge that would be quick to heat up and easy to construct even in rough terrain. The Polykem plant was chosen as the manufacturer of the house as a result of the work being put out to tender.
The Futuro house made headlines in Finland and abroad. The Futuro house was first exhibited on television and to the press at the Polykem plant in Hiekkaharju in Vantaa, Finland, at the end of March 1968. At this point only the shell without interior was completed. The light blue Futuro no. 000 was set up in June 1968 as a skiing lodge in a private ski slope in the Finnish town of Turenki. The yellow Futuro no. 001 was constructed soon after the prototype and in August 1968 Finnish television persona Matti Kuusla bought it for his summer cottage by the lake Puulavesi in Hirvensalmi.
The Futuro made its international breakthrough in October 1968, when the third yellow Futuro no. 002 was displayed at the Finnfocus Export Fair in London. The event showcased Finnish design on the ferry Finnpartner, which was moored on the river Thames. The Futuro house was placed on the on the Finnpartner’s upper deck. It attracted so much attention that during the following months, the Polykem plant received more than 400 enquiries from abroad regarding a manufacturing license. Among them, the managing director of Polykem chose the most suitable negotiation partners.
The Futuro made headlines in the international press as well. For example The New York Times presented the Futuro in its article “Saucer-Shaped House Arrives on Earth” on 20 July 1969, the same day Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Despite the wide attention in Finland and abroad, the Futuro never became the expected commercial success. It was too peculiar and too expensive to break into the mass market. The manufacturer Polykem also lacked the experience and resources required for a large scale launch. With the 1973 Oil Crisis tripling the price of plastic, all hopes of the Futuro house ever conquering the world had to be abandoned.
THE NEW LIFE OF THE FUTURO HOUSE
Although the Futuro house was nearly forgotten, from the 1990s on it has been given a new life, not only as a 1960s space-age icon but also as a work of art gaining exposure in the international art world.
Today, about 65 known Futuro houses remain in various corners of the world – 66 complete houses and half a Futuro used for exhibitions, to be precise. Outside Europe Futuro houses can be found in the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. In Finland, four other houses in addition to WeeGee’s Futuro are known to remain in the Åland Islands and in the regions of Merimasku, Pöytyä and Kauhava.
Only three Futuro houses are in public collections: the Futuro prototype (no. 000) at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Futuro no. 001 at the Exhibition Centre WeeGee in Espoo and the Futuro at the Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum in Munich.
FACTS ABOUT FUTURO
Diameter 8 m
Height 4 m
Total weight 4,000 kg
2 person bedroom
Toilet and bathroom
ORIGINAL COLOUR OPTIONS
Space house Futuro was a demonstration of 1960s architecture (Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle)
Video material of the Futuro in 1968 and of the moving of the Futuro from Hirvensalmi to Virtasalmi for restoration in 2012. (Reporter: Emilia Kemppi, archives Elävä arkisto, Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle 2012)
Floating exhibition of Finnish products
British news footage from 1968 of the Futuro on the ferry Finnpartner in London. (News archive British Pathé)
Futuro images (Finna)
Espoo City Museum has opened up its collection of Futuro photographs to be freely used through the Finna online service. The archives contain 95 photos. Photos and copyright information here.
Futuro: Tomorrow's House from Yesterday
The book by Marko Home and Mika Taanila offers interesting perspectives of the Futuro house. The book comes with a DVD copy of the film FUTURO: A New Stance for Tomorrow (1998) and 45 minutes of other Futuro footage. The DVD also includes 180 minutes of film music by Elektroverde. The book can be ordered from EMMA Shop.
Trailer: FUTURO – A New Stance for Tomorrow (Youtube)
Taking us on a journey back in time to our recent futuristic past, this documentary film is about the rise and fall of the plastic Futuro house, a Space Age utopia that almost became a reality. (Director: Mika Taanila, script: Mika Taanila & Marko Home, © Kinotar Oy 1998)