Baraja Touchaleaume
Fewer than 100 of these otherworldly prefab houses were built in the 1970s. Now, an exhibition in France called Utopie Plastic looks back at these fantastic plastic holiday homes.
Baraja Touchaleaume
The Futuro House was designed to serve as a ski lodge, and was actually quite well insulated. The house was also fitted with an electronic heating system, enabling users to warm it quickly and easily.
Baraja Touchaleaume
In 1971 Finland put the Futuro House on a stamp, in a series honoring the country's plastics industry.
Baraja Touchaleaume
The official title of Jean Maneval's Bubble House was the Maison Bulle Six Coques or the Bubble House of Six Shells, which refers to the number of outer pieces used to make the dwelling.
Baraja Touchaleaume
The Bubble House came in three different colours: white, green and brown. Customers were supposed to pick a shade to match their site's natural background.
Courtesy Sparkling Presse
The designer of the Hexacube, architect Georges Candilis, worked closely with Le Corbusier, serving as project architect on Le Corbusier's famous Unité d'Habitation residential block in Marseille.
Courtesy Sparkling Presse
Candilis created the Hexacube in conjunction with fellow architect Anja Blomstedt. The building was made to be put together by just two or three people, and could be extended easily, using additional pieces.
Courtesy Sparkling Presse
The Frich de l'Escalette sculpture and architecture park is situated in a disused lead mill. Eric Touchaleaume bought the site in 2011, and staged his first exhibition, of a rare Jean Prouvé he had found in Cameroon, in 2016
Baraja Touchaleaume
The exhibition also features period-correct furniture and furnishings, including inflatable chairs.
Courtesy Sparkling Presse
Curator Eric Touchaleaume began his career in flea markets, and took an interest in Prouvé after buying 600 of the architect's chairs from a French university.
Baraja Touchaleaume
In June 2007 a rare, tropical Jean Prouvé house, bought and restored by Touchaleaume, sold at Chritie's in New York for $4,968,000. The buyer was the New York hotelier Andre Balazs.
CNN  — 

Why aren’t more of us choosing to holiday in plastic cabins? Why aren’t synthetic chalets more popular than wooden beach shacks and concrete pools?

The French architectural collector and curator Eric Touchaleaume believes he has the answer: he blames OPEC. “The 1970s oil crisis considerably increased the price of plastic materials,” he explains, “marking a halt to the vogue of prefabricated plastic houses.”

Touchaleaume’s current show – at his Friche de l’Escalette sculpture and architecture park on the outskirts of Marseille – offers a glimpse of that wild, prefab world those commodity shocks ended.

Utopie Plastic brings together a handful of small, plastic holiday dwellings manufactured in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

A beach cube

Behold the Hexacube, a futuristic hut created by the Greek-born architect Georges Candilis in 1972.

Candilis saw his building, which could be assembled and extended quite easily to suit the needs of its owner, as simple, modernist beach dwelling.

Many Hexacubes were installed at a holiday village in the Mediterranean tourist resort of Port Leucate, though nowadays you’re more likely to see one going for five figure sums over on popular online antiques marketplace 1stDibs.

The show also has a couple of Jean Maneval’s Bubble Houses. Only 30 were manufactured between 1968 and 1970, though this didn’t prevent one of France’s groovier tour companies from establishing a Bubble House resort in the Pyrenees.

Courtesy Sparkling Presse
Georges Candilis' Hexacube (1972).

There’s one of a Futuro House by the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen which looks – and there’s no other way to describe it – like a flying saucer.

Suuronen was inspired to make this dwelling having perfected the fiberglass dome’s manufacture while working on grain silos. He intended the Futuro House to serve as a prefab ski-lodge, though, again, only around 100 were produced.

The Futuro House on display in Marseille was originally used as a show home in Mallorca, in an attempt to break into the holiday home market; when the scheme failed, the building was abandoned in a pine forest, then sold on the Internet.

A plastic comeback?

This is not the most exotic find Touchaleaume has ever put on display.

Sometimes described as “the Indiana Jones of the architecture world,” he has traveled to Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo and Chandigarh in northern India to find, buy and bring back highly prized works by such venerable mid-century architects as Jean Prouvé and Le Corbusier.

Baraja Touchaleaume
Matti Suuronen's Futuro House.

Today, almost anyone with an interest in architecture appreciates Le Corbusier’s and Prouvé’s buildings. Could we rekindle our love for plastic chalets?

Touchaleaume believes so. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of an affordable, fashionable second home?

“It would not be surprising if this were not to become a topical issue again,” says Touchaleaume. Now oil prices are low again.

“Perhaps 2018 will be the year to summer in plastic?”

Utopie Plastic is at Frich de l’Escalette sculpture and architecture park until 1 October 2017.