The evolution of Architecture has been a continuous process which is happening for ages. The history of Architecture has shown us pieces of evidence that Architecture is effective since the existence of mankind. The most important piece of Architecture has always been a house which is of primitive need for humans. 

A house has always been a personalized and most important structure for Architects and users. It is very much evident that there has been a wide spectrum of houses all across the world. One such example is the Xanadu Houses in the United States. 

Let us try to get an overview of these houses through the following questions.

What is a Xanadu House?

A Xanadu house is a type of house that was built in different cities of the United States. The first of the Xanadu houses were designed in 1979 by Ar. Stewart Gordon and constructed by Bob Masters in Wisconsin Bells, Wisconsin within an area of 370 sq. m. 

The most famous Xanadu house was built by Roy Mason and Bob Masters in Kissimmee, United States in 1983. This house was located 30 miles away from Disney World’s “Land of Tomorrow” Epcot Center. The last one was built in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. These Xanadu houses were three series houses that were resultant of many inputs from different people from the Architectural fraternity.

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Typical Plan of Xanadu House_William Ackel

How the Xanadu Houses were formed?

A Xanadu house is an outcome of different experiments. The original idea came from Bob Masters which while exploring different materials and experimenting invented the inflatable balloons that could be used in construction. He wanted to make these dome-shaped forms in foam that could be very well reflected in the houses. This was a very bold decision of using such shapes to break the monotony of regular house typology. 

These domical shapes were finally made in the polyurethane insulation foam and were paired with technology. The complete house was automated like a machine and was an iconic way of presenting the house with this perspective. Bob Masters along with Ar. Stewart Gordon and Ar. Roy Mason constructed these Xanadu houses with all ergonomics and the latest automated amenities. The construction also resulted in an easy, fast, and even cost-effective way than the conventional approach.

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Exterior of the house_William Ackel
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Exterior of the house_William Ackel
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Exterior of the house_William Ackel
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Exterior of the house_William Ackel

Why were the Xanadu Houses demolished?

The Xanadu Houses were very popular once they were built. They became a tourist attraction with an average of 1000 visitors per day. After the construction of the first Xanadu House at Wisconsin Bells within the first week, the visitor count was about 10,000. 

Among the three Xanadu houses, the most popular one was by Roy Mason at Kissimmee. The house got its name from Bob Master’s partner Tom Gussel. The reference comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem Kulba Khan that features Xanadu as a reference to the Summer Capital of Yuan. 

In the early 1990s, the Xanadu Houses started losing their popularity. With technological advancements, the technology used in the Xanadu house was becoming old and thus they were demolished. The Wisconsin and Tennessee houses were demolished first and later in the year 2001, the Xanadu house at Kissimmee was also demolished.

Xanadu Houses: A series of Experimental Homes - sheet6
Interior of the house_William Ackel
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Interior of the house_William Ackel
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Interior of the house_William Ackel
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Interior of the house_William Ackel
Xanadu Houses: A series of Experimental Homes - sheet10
Interior of the house_William Ackel
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Interior of the house_William Ackel
Xanadu Houses: A series of Experimental Homes - sheet12
Interior of the house_William Ackel

These Xanadu houses are an essential example of exploring and experimentation connected with Architecture. We have seen the evolution of Architecture in different parts of the world and one of the key elements has been exploration and experimentation. 

This example also showcases the connection of technology with Architecture in an effective manner which is very well amalgamated in the space within. Thus, it is a significant piece of work that should be studied and understood for its better perspective and importance in the History of Architecture.

Author

Srushti Tiwari is the Principal Architect for Chaukhat Designs, Nagpur. She is also a faculty at Institute of Design Education and Architectural Studies (IDEAS), Nagpur. She is keen about research based works and likes to explore the culture and community. She is also associated with Studio Sakha as an Associate Architect. She believes working with different types of people help you grow and hence is constantly engaged in some or the other collaborative works related or co-related to Architectural Field.

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