The Energy Issue

The Energy Issue is a Columbia University GSAPP initiative to make energy a cultural issue, launched in partnership with Oldcastle Building Envelope®.

Dreams of Plastic: Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland

Dreams of Plastic: Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland

 

Sponsored by the now notorious Monsanto Company, the “House of the Future” embraced a vision of suburban living where plastic reigned. Indeed, everything from the building shell and flooring to the sinks and dishes were made from plastic. Featured at the Disneyland in Anaheim, California from 1957 to 1967, the model home was designed and engineered jointly by Monsanto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Exterior and interior views of the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland

Exterior and interior views of the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland

The retro-futuristic curved structure was made of fiberglass modular components that were assembled on-site. Visitors were offered a tour of the home, where they could experience what the world would be like in the future—1986, to be exact. Though Monsanto overestimated our reliance on plastic, the design anticipated our use of plastic tableware and easy-to-clean flooring, along with household appliances like microwave ovens. The house saw over 435,000 visitors within the first six weeks of opening, and ultimately saw over 20 million visitors before being closed.

Interior views of the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland

Interior views of the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland

Notably, the building was so sturdy that demolition crews failed to destroy the house using wrecking balls, torches, chainsaws and jackhammers. It was ultimately demolished by using choker chains to crush it into smaller parts, though the reinforced polyester structure was so strong that the half-inch steel bolts used to mount it to its foundation broke before the structure itself did. Despite it short existence for just ten years, the Monsanto House of the Future left a strong cultural legacy, influencing popular perceptions of value, lifestyle, and consumption.