Wallace Neff was perhaps best known for the homes he designed for Hollywood stars like Judy Garland, Groucho Marx and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The Spanish Colonial Revival style he employed for Hollywood definitely has its place in architectural history, but today we’d like to look at some of his less-known designs – the Bubble Houses.
One of the most interesting aspects of Neff’s Bubble Houses was the unusual methods he used to construct them. By inflating giant balloons and covering them with reinforced concrete, he was able to create circular structures that were completely open on the inside. He called this method “airform” and had hopes that the inexpensive process would be used to build economical housing for the masses.
Alas, the Bubble House never did catch on in the United States, but a few bubble communities were built in Egypt, Brazil, and West Africa during the 1940s and 1950s. See and read more about Wallace Neff’s Bubble Houses in Jeffrey Head’s book, No Nails, No Lumber: The Bubble Houses of Wallace Neff.
Today, only one Bubble House remains in the United States; it is located in Pasadena, CA and has been kept up beautifully by owners Sari and Steve Roden. Read more in this article by the LA Times.
Pasadena Bubble House
Photos courtesy Los Angeles Times.
Bubble Communities Around the World
Above photos taken from ‘No Nails, No Lumber: The Bubble Houses of Wallace Neff’ by Jeffrey Head.
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The real estate market just blew up across the country with gorgeous mid-century modern homes by some the best architects of the 20th century. Take a look at this buffet of modern delights and perhaps you’ll find a little something for yourself!
This incredible 3,800-square-foot masterpiece was inspired by a MoMa Showcase home that was originally commissioned by Phillip Johnson himself. It has a few Breuer trademarks, like the delightful butterfly roof and ‘bi-nuclear’ family-friendly layout.
Known as the Nordlinger House #1, the 1948 residence features cantilevered balconies and a redwood exterior. The 2,950-square-foot house devotes its entire second story to the master bedroom and its wraparound balcony; the remaining two bedrooms, a maid’s quarters, the centrally-placed kitchen, and an amazing brick fireplace are all on the first level.
This spectacular country estate by Jules Gregory was voted one of the 10 best houses in America by Architectural Record in 1960. The 11-acre wooded property features a main house with a stunning undulating conoid roof and 4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, along with a guest house that contains one bed/bath and a kitchenette.
They say it’s all about location, and this utterly-perfect 1967 restoration is dirt cheap by SoCal standards. Thanks to the glass walls surrounding the courtyard of the dwelling, you can peer from the entryway all the way through the wall of glass in back, out onto the fairway of the Urbana Country Club’s 18-hole golf course. Let’s all just gaze at it and sigh, since most of us don’t live within 1,000 miles of Illinois.
This lovely mix of hardwood and rock textures was designed in 1959 by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, starchitect Lloyd Wright. The 2,100-square-foot De Jonghe Residence offers two bedrooms, beamed ceilings, a wealth of enormous windows, and two impressive fireplaces that appear to have been chiseled out of a preexisting rock face.
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