If you know anything about the future, you know that it already happened in middle of the last century—at least as far as architecture is concerned. Space Age-inflected design was essentially perfected in L.A., and it gifted us such gems as the LAX theme building and Johnie’s Coffee Shop. It also begot some of Southern California’s most whimsical Jetsons-worthy houses. But it didn’t stop there. UFO-esque structures popped up throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s as well. Here, a compilation of the most futuristic houses out there—some of them genuine Mid-century, others just straight up extraterrestrial.
This 1960 John Lautner-designed octagonal wonder is supported on a 30-foot-tall pole in the Hollywood Hills (an ambitious solution to the challenges of building a house on a 45 degree slope). Oh, and you have to take a funicular to get to the front door—which you’d think would deter break-ins, until you learn that the home’s second owner was stabbed to death in a robbery.
Finnish architect Matti Suurone conceived of the Futuro house as a pre-fab portable ski chalet made of plastic with stairs that fold out from the entry hatch (like the Millennium Falcon). Fewer than 100 were made in the late ’60s and early ’70s and only around 60 remain (all of which have been meticulously mapped). The one in Los Angeles is nestled into the Hollywood Hills literally next door to the Chemosphere.
Imagined as a source of inexpensive housing, architect Wallace Neff’s ’40s-era bubble houses were created by inflating a giant balloon and blasting it with spray-on concrete. No joke. Many of them are still lived in overseas, clustered together in what look like Martian colonies. Neff himself lived in the Pasadena bubble for a time.
Al Struckus House
While most of the houses on this were built around the ’60s when the Space Age spirit was alive and well, this Bruce Goff masterpiece in Woodland Hills is channelling the ’80s hard. If a wood spaceship could ever exist (in, like, a world without atmospheric friction), it would look like this.
Another Lautner creation rests on spindly legs in the Hollywood Hills. Recent owners have added a fence to keep the 1962 home from being visible from the street (fair, considering the walls are floor-to-ceiling glass). Sidenote: Mel Gibson destroys this house in Lethal Weapon 2 and gets really pumped about it.
The only truly acceptable place for a UFO house is on top of the cinder core of a dead volcano in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Designed by Harold Bissner Jr. for the guy who patented the original skateboard, the 1968 home (near Barstow) is tricked out with a moat and rooftop observation deck. Oh, yeah, and for a number of years, it was owned by Huell Howser—precious Huell Howser—who eventually donated it to Chapman University.
If the concrete disk hovering over the glass-walled living room of this house isn’t a flying saucer, what is? Lautner—at this point the unofficial king of spaceship houses—designed this Palm Springs house to incorporate natural elements into the architecture. The home makes a prominent appearance in Diamonds Are Forever as villain Willard Whyte’s lair and the location of James Bond’s hand-to-hand showdown with two attractive female bodyguards in swimsuits.
Bob Hope House
Bob Hope’s “UFO House” in Palm Springs (not the one in the Valley that might be torn down) was designed in 1973 by—all together now—John Lautner. It was created to be reminiscent of volcano, with a circular opening in the roof over the courtyard, but more than anything it resembles an alien mothership touching down on a desert planet.