The Future from the Past: Spheres for living and leisure

A rolling, inhabitable bubble from the future as imagined in 1946

A 1934 proposal for spherical homes that roll in place and on to the next one.

Above are two similar but distinct visions of the future as predicted from the earlier half of the 20th century. The illustrations are from 1946 and 1934, both foretelling a future where we inhabit giant and mobile spheres. In the color illustration, we have an atomic-powered pleasure palace: a gyro-stabilized stack of decks, pools and dance floors. Why? Because of all the free time we were supposed to have after the end of WWII. The black and white illustration promises a future where our houses follow us wherever we move.

Although both proposals may look naive to us now, they confront a limitation of architecture that has persistently interested architects: creating non-static structures. And while there are plenty of projects with large, moveable parts, none have achieved this kind of mobility. It’s simply easier for us to move somewhere new than to drag our old house across the country like a giant ball and chain. The massive amounts of free time promised at the dawn of the atomic age never materialized for the american worker; so the roving plastic pleasure spheres might as well have been other planets.

March 26, 2012 / By