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Futuro House listed as a historic place – Heritage New Zealand

The heritage values of a near-perfect example of a 1970s architectural classic have been officially recognised.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has listed the Area 51 Futuro House in Ōhoka as a Category 1 historic place. The listing identifies the rare, futuristic tiny home as a place of outstanding heritage significance.

Public support for the proposal to list the flying saucer-like building was overwhelmingly supportive according to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Senior Heritage Assessment Advisor for Canterbury and the West Coast, Robyn Burgess.

“We received 97 submissions on the proposal to list Futuro House, the vast majority of which were enthusiastically in favour, reflecting the extent to which the listing proposal captured people’s imaginations,” says Robyn.

“What was even more remarkable was the sheer range of submitters – individuals and organisations from all around New Zealand and overseas – including current and past owners of Futuro houses.

“One theme that really stood out among the submitters was support for the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero evolving to reflect new and exciting types of heritage such as this.”

Area 51 Futuro House in Ōhoka is stand-out example of the reinforced fibre glass plastic building that was developed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as an innovative solution for a prefabricated, easy-to-relocate after-ski hut.

Constructed from 16 fibre glass-reinforced plastic segments bolted together, the buildings are assembled relatively easily forming an ellipsoid capsule – more suggestive of a spaceship that has just landed than ski accommodation.

The style of building is instantly recognisable, and Futuros have gained an international following with enthusiasts all around the globe. Originally around 100 were made, but now only about 68 survive and ones in good condition that you can actually stay in are quite a rarity.

The Area 51 name references the name of the US Air Force base in Nevada that is often associated with conspiracy theories and stories about UFOs and aliens, though designer Matti Suuronen never intended his concept to resemble a spaceship. Instead his design was the result of meticulous mathematical calculations that provided optimum structural efficiency.

Futuros began to be manufactured by a New Zealand company who secured the rights to produce them in 1972. By the beginning of 1974, two Futuro houses were showcased at the entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park for the British Commonwealth Games.

The Area 51 Futuro House was acquired by Nick McQuoid in 2018, and became the subject of a meticulous renovation. The Futuro now operates as holiday accommodation, winning the category of New Zealand’s best unique listing on Airbnb in 2022.

“The Area 51 Futuro House challenges us to think about what actually constitues a heritage building,” says Robyn.

“Judging by the feedback we’ve received from a wide range of people, the feeling is that even buildings that have a distinctly futuristic feel to them – and which are comparatively young in age – can very much be heritage buildings.”

 

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