Friday, July 06, 2012

Xanadu, (Past) House of the Future

While looking through some lost Florida roadside attractions (at the nifty, I ran across "Xanadu, Home of the Future."  Built using foam insulation sprayed inside balloons and using computers to control everything from lighting and windows to security and heating, this tourist attraction in Kissimmee (near Disney World) had sister houses in Wisconsin and Tennessee.  It was supposed to be a model for houses in the future.  Now, the houses are all shut down and demolished.  The Kissimmee house went last, closing in 1996 and torn down in 2005.  In between, someone visited the dilapidated ex-house-of-the-future and recorded the state of the site.  Attached below is the first of a five part YouTube series exploring the decaying remains of the house.
After watching this urban explorer check out the end of the house, I also found this video from the 1980s, showing a documentary of sorts about the "House of the Future" at its prime:

It's kind of a cool design.  I actually like some of the architecture, like the big central room with the tree, fountain, and balcony.  The upstairs rooms are are way too small, and I think no one thought through the idea of having these be for children: Children will eventually grow up and no longer fit in these rooms, but we hope the house will last more than one generation.  (Not that it appears to have survived very well.)  I did like the upstairs balcony 'though, and I love the master bath with hot tub and multi-directional shower.

I appreciate the computer control of the house, and I actually wonder why we don't see more of this in contemporary design.  As I try to maintain the temperature in my central-air-lacking apartment by raising and lowering blinds and windows, I've often thought that a computer-controlled system could optimize this much better (and more easily) than I can.  It would also fix the dilemma I have in the summer, where I want to leave my bedroom windows open at night to let the place cool off, but end up having to get up at (literally) the crack of dawn to close them again so I can keep the light out.  This appears to be part of what Xanadu's computers actually did.  Maybe someday.

Anyway here's a bit more history about Xanadu at Lost Parks: Xanadu, Home of the Future, Roadside America: The Last of the Xanadus, and Wikipedia: Xanadu Houses, for those who find this as interesting as I did.

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