Look up. Really. Next time you’re in Granary Square, squint and you might catch a view of something quite extraordinary high above the famous art college.
Painstakingly restored by the artist Craig Barnes, this spaceship-style, prefabricated dwelling was designed by Finnish architect Mati Suoronnen in the 1960s, and it’s one of only about 60 in existence today.
The Futuro House was originally conceived as a weekend retreat, before being manufactured around the world – but the oil crisis of the early 1970s put an end to that, causing the cost of plastic to treble. The upshot was that only a hundred were actually ever made.
The sole example to grace London’s skyline previously was aboard a ferry on the Thames back in 1968 as part of the houses’ launch at the FinnFocus trade exhibition. The Daily Mail wrote drily that “this object, looking like everyone else’s idea of a flying saucer from outer Space, is the Finnish idea of a perfect weekend cottage”.So how did Craig Barnes get his mitts on one? “I first saw the Futuro house as a small kid on holiday in South Africa,” he says. “Over the years I revisited it time and time again, dreaming of one day owning such a magnificently odd construction. In April 2013 an unexpected chain of events led to myself and my wife Jane not quite believing that I was actually agreeing to buy that very house – the house of my dreams.”
Boom. But how to transport it 12,000 miles to Herefordshire by land and sea, let alone restore it? (And not to mention the fact that the couple were supposed to be flying home to the UK the next day.)
“I didn’t have a screwdriver to my name, or any idea how to begin,” says Craig. And so began five frantic days and sleepless nights spent deconstructing the Futuro and working out how to get it back to the UK. But miraculously, the plan worked.
Then a two month wait, “worrying whether it would survive the epic journey by sea” perched on the top of a container ship, while unexpected bills racked up, complications endured, including the “stresses of working out where you store a spaceship”.
But finally the house was safely ensconced in Herefordshire. It was initially stored in pieces in a former World War II bomb factory, while Barnes considered the best way to approach its makeover – and also finding somewhere to do it.Relocated to a new workshop, restoration began in earnest in January 2014. “As the year went on,” he says, “the pace quickened and more and more people became involved in the journey to bring the Futuro back to its former glory and allow the world to enjoy it.”
So now it’s resident in King’s Cross, what actually happens inside? Well, Central Saint Martin’s are hosting a year long series of performances, screenings, talks and happenings speculating on the possibilities and inevitabilities ahead.
“Artists, designers and thinkers will gather to question, provoke and seek solutions to change the course of our world,” says Barnes. Wowsers. And don’t fear, it will also be open to the public occasionally as part of this programme of events.