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Model houses that saw the future from 85 years ago

Model houses that saw the future from 85 years ago

85 years ago, on May 27, 1933 was the opening of the Chicago World’s fair where it promoted science and industry. One of their exhibitions was the showcase of futuristic residential designs. Amazingly, 5 of these model houses still stand to till today.

History of the models

The Chicago World’s fair was to celebrate a decade of progress with a theme to look to the future, to shift attention from the Great Depression. The exhibit featured all the latest advancements in architecture, interior design and building materials.

The most popular of the exhibitions were the modern houses with the House of Tomorrow on top. Through the years, 5 model houses were saved while the rest were demolished.

The future imagined

The 5 model houses – the Wieboldt-Roston, the Cypress Log cabin, the Armco-Ferro house, Florida tropical house and the House of Tomorrow – were revolutionary, if not alien, for Americans who were mostly still living in bungalows or Victorian houses.

Surprisingly, the predictions of the top architects, from the past weren’t that far off. The vision that they proposed influenced the future in a way.

For example, the architect for Armco-Ferro house Robert Smith used corrugated steel panels that were bolted together, and then rigged-out with steel panels with porcelain enamels. This idea inspired some homes that were prefabricated during World War 2. The Wieboldt-Roston was constructed using a trial material called Rostone which is composed of shale, limestone and alkali which is then wrapped around steel frames.

Another of the model houses known as the Cypress Log cabin showcased how versatile cypress wood is in both interior and exteriors. Then there’s the Florida Tropical house, a bright pink house promoting indoor-outdoor lifestyle through various terraces and balconies.

The House of Tomorrow, the boldest of the models is called the first ever glass house. It included cutting edge appliances and quirks like dishwashers and air conditioners, solar heating and glass curtain walls.

Apart from each house’s distinct characteristics were features that were rare back then – like open-concept living spaces and attached garages – features that became standard today.

Protecting the past

As enchanting as they were back then, their glory faded as time passed.

In danger of fully degrading and being lost in time, the National Park Service and Indiana Landmarks saw to it that the models were rehabilitated and restored.

Visualizing the future anew

Envisioning the future of home design has never wavered. NS Studio architecture firm created the House of the Future for the Property Buyer Expo in Australia aiming to visualize how people will be living like in the future. The inspiration for the house included a system service that will connect everything from smart mirrors that will aid you with selecting your outfits, laundry that’s water free and more. But it isn’t all about technology; the House of the Future will also incorporate sustainability.


Ruben Steward

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