It’s back to the Futuro in Australia, where seven of the ‘UFO houses’ have landed

Futuro “UFO houses” are scattered around the world – disintegrating in forests, gleaming on hilltops and peeking out of back yards.

They look like retro cartoon spaceships brought to life and imbued with Nordic cool.

A “smitten” David Walsh, the founder of the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), has restored one of the cult, prefabricated houses and says one day he’ll make it available to the public “at an exorbitant fee, of course”.

The flying saucers were designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen using resin, fibreglass, plastic and acrylic. The first one went on display in 1968, as the Apollo mission to the moon was being planned.

Promised as the mass producable, portable holiday homes of the future, only somewhere between 60 and 100 were made in the end. Of those surviving, about seven are in Australia.

David Walsh’s restored Futuro house.
Walsh’s Futuro. The ‘flying saucers’ were designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen and the first one went on display in 1968. Photograph: Mona/Jesse Hunniford
David Walsh’s restored Futuro house, Marion Bay, Tasmania. Australia.
David Walsh’s restored Futuro house. When he first came across them in 1987, he was ‘smitten’. Photograph: Mona/Jesse Hunniford

Walsh says he first came across Futuros in South Korea in 1987.

“[That was] at a time when I was foolish enough to think that composites and plastics were pretty cool, I was rather smitten with them,” he says. “Years later I bought a semi-intact Futuro from a New Zealand collector.”

Mona architect Nonda Katsalidis designed the interior, which features cool hues and 70s-style orange. They are now restoring another Suuronen design, a Venturo – while still rounded, the Venturo has more of a capsule shape.

The 8m diameter Futuros were initially designed as a portable ski chalet that could be quickly warmed. They sit on a metal frame, with entry via a hatch-like door.

David Walsh’s restored Futuro house Marion Bay Tasmania.
Fan site The Futuro House lists seven Futuros in Australia, including Walsh’s (pictured), one at the University of Canberra, and one in South Australia’s Deep Creek. Photograph: Mona/Jesse Hunniford

Fan site The Futuro House tracks the remaining examples and lists seven in Australia, including Walsh’s, one at the University of Canberra, and one in South Australia’s Deep Creek. There are nine listed in New Zealand, with others in the US, across Europe, and in South Africa and Taiwan.

SA’s Futuro was initially installed on Melbourne Street in Adelaide before being moved to Deep Creek. It was restored and is now part of the luxury Naiko Retreat, where hikers might stumble upon it.

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“Most people are astonished when they see a spaceship down there,” manager Christine Crawford says.

“The Heysen Trail actually passes through the Naiko property so people are quite surprised.”

Owner Tony Johnson hired her husband, Neil, to renovate it in 2019.

“Absolutely everything was different. It was such an exciting job,” Crawford says.

“From a construction point of view, there is not a straight edge at all, everything has a curve, so it was quite tricky in that sense.”

David Walsh’s Futuro house
Walsh’s Futuro. The 8m diameter houses were initially designed as a portable ski chalet that could be quickly warmed. Photograph: Mona/Jesse Hunniford

Now it sits, powered by solar, on the Fleurieu Peninsula’s coastal cliffs.

The Canberra Futuro “landed” in Fyshwick in the 70s, and is now a meeting or tutorial space at the university. According to The Futuro House, a Queensland Futuro is a home, a Victorian version is disassembled and in storage, of two in Perth one is being renovated and people are crowdsourcing to fix another.

The ABC has reported that tropical cyclone Tracey destroyed a Darwin Futuro in 1974.

Walsh says both the Futuro and the Venturo will “eventually be made available to the public (at an exorbitant fee, of course).”

“In the meantime they are enjoying an idyllic existence overlooking the sand and surf near Marion Bay in Tasmania,” he says.

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