Out of This World Treasure Gets New Start
Photo by Dave Hensley
Residents traveling regularly on State Highway 276 in Royse City, Texas, grew used to seeing an old spaceship-looking structure standing alone in an overgrown field. To many it fired imaginations, bringing to mind a forgotten alien crash site and for others it was a magnet for graffiti and trash.
The structure is one of a few Futuro Houses designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in the late 1960s. It was manufactured to be portable with raised legs. In its heyday, guests entered through a hatch to an elliptical space with a bedroom, bathroom, fireplace, and living room. The Futuro Corporation built the lightweight houses as a prefabricated, compact housing solution for any corner of the globe.
An article by Dallas American Institute of Architects (AIA) a couple of years ago says the design was reflective of an optimistic post-war era, intended for a future-thinking population immersed in space travel, the growing influence of technology, and a newfound desire to live designed lives.
The project was ultimately too forward-thinking for its own good they say, for being “unnatural” and some cities banned them. Fewer than 100 of these homes were built before the project was decommissioned in the early 1970s. Today, it is estimated only about 50 remain.
It’s not clear how the Royse City Futuro house came to reside in the field on 276. It had some tenants from time to time, and went through a few renovations, but in recent years it was abandoned and became more and more dilapidated.
One day this summer, 26-year-old local Gunderson Elkins decided he was just tired of looking at it.
“I’ve always loved this UFO and thought of it as an important landmark in our community,” he says. “It broke my heart when I moved back and saw it in such poor shape. It was littered with graffiti and wasn’t even recognizable.”
He and his friend Chris Shelton decided to take action.
“I wanted to repaint it, and restore it back to something the community could be proud of.”
They approached the current property owner, Santiago Rivera, with an offer to fix it up and he agreed.
First they painted the outside a bright orange and in a nod to Nevada’s Air Force “alien” location Area 51, they painted Area 276 on the side.
Then they painted the inside, getting rid of all the graffiti.
“I’m pretty happy with the end result,” Elkins says. “We really had a lot of fun painting it and I enjoyed everyone who stopped to show their appreciation.”
He says they are not done yet and he hopes to install windows and a mural on the inside.
“We want to make it a cool landmark,” he says.
Rivera’s daughter Jaelle is grateful to the guys for their work and she has ideas of her own about what the future may hold for the Futuro house. She is currently in chef training at the Art Institute of Dallas and when she graduates she’s thinking about opening a restaurant or burger joint there.
Her food is sure to be out of this world.
The Royse City Futuro House is located at 9573 State Highway 276 W, Royse City, TX 75189.