The late 1950’s was a period of unbridled optimism and consumerism, as new products poured onto the market almost daily. The pace of change was relentless and it seemed that people were always looking for the next “big thing” to make their lives easier. One of the emerging technologies of the time was plastics. They were being seen as the panacea to all ills and they were predicted to take the place of many other existing materials.
One great example was the Monsanto “House of the future”. Developed by the giant chemical company Monsanto, the house was made of reinforced structural plastic, and was built in 1957 in the grounds of Disneyland, California as a display home.
Consisting of a central core and four “wings” standing high off the ground, the house was a showcase of futuristic ideas. The “atoms for living” kitchen had a revolutionary (for the time) microwave oven, electric cupboards and a hidden fridge, as well as an ultrasonic dishwasher. (which, incidentally, is a process now being developed by current dishwasher manufacturers)
In the living room and bedrooms, fittings and furnishings were essentially….plastic. And the floors, walls and ceilings were also types of plastic. The bathroom was a prefabricated plastic bathroom, with everything moulded into the right shape.
The house even boasted climate control air conditioning and a push button speaker phone!
By the mid-late 60’s the house had seen over 20 million visitors, but it was time for it to be removed.
Demolition crews brought in a crane and wrecking ball but the demolition process, initially estimated to take just one day, took over 2 weeks! The crew found that the wrecking ball just bounced off the walls and the structure was incredibly hard to destroy – a testament to the durability of the plastics used. In the end they had to use chains and hacksaws to break and cut up the house into pieces.
Have a look at the video to see more about the planning and building of this fantastic piece of urban design history:
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