The Home That Revolves

The World

December, 1970

When an architect designs his own home he is understand-ably fussy about standards. Richard T. Foster is no exception. He acquired a beautiful site, in the shape of a natural amphitheater in Wilton, Connecticut, and set about designing a house for it at his New York office.

He drew up four successive sets of plans. He tore them all up. Then finally he realized what he wanted.

“A revolving house. That was the answer,” said Foster. “You see, the problem with the site was that it was too beautiful. It had a wonderful view in every direction. I couldn’t make up my mind which way to -face the house. So a revolving one was the obvious solution.”

Foster is somewhat reluctant to discuss the cost of the eight-room house. But conservative estimates suggest at least $250,000.
What’s it like to live in a house that revolves? The living room may face the pond in the morning, the pine woods in the afternoon and the rolling hills in the evening. As one room moves so do the others.

When the house is going at top speed it can make a full turn in 48 minutes. At the slowest rate it takes four hours. But even at the fastest rate there’s no sensation of movement. It’s only when you glance out of the window after a couple of minutes and find the scenery perceptibly changed that you realize that you’re moving at all.

The idea of a revolving house is great but how do you keep all the utility connections, like plumbing, gas and electricity, from twisting themselves into a great spaghetti tangle? That was one of the problems that faced Richard Foster.

A huge ball bearing is the integral part of the house. It moves the structure round the pivot of the stairwell, and is the same type that is used for gun turrets on warships, radar antennae and heavy earth moving shovels. The bearing is powered by a -11 horse power motor. The running cost of the motor is approximately that of a refrigerator.

The problem of the plumbing was solved by using a 360-degree water valve — an idea borrow from the oil industry. The power supply is mounted on an industrial type trolley, especially bent for the round house. The tanks for the oil furnace are located under the roof and the telephone connections use radar commutators. None of these unusual connections are visible.

The motion of the house is controlled by three buttons and a dial that Foster describes as “simple enough for a three year old child to operate.” The two but-tons are for “forwards” and “backwards” and the dial (1 to 10) controls the speed.

What does Mrs. Foster think of it all?

“When he said ‘Let’s turn it,’ I thought it was the obvious answer,” she said. “It doesn’t change the housekeeping. It’s perfectly normal inside.”

The inside is as modern and uncluttered as the face the house presents to the outside world. The rooms are wedge-shaped with a fairly wide base.

The living room has a steel fireplace and is furnished with Mies van der Rohe chairs and a coffee table as well as a straight lined sofa, covered in black wool. It is completely open to the central stairwell. The entire outer wall is of glass. Curtains can be drawn across automatically, but there is little need for them.

“We have complete privacy anyway,” Foster said. “And if the sun is annoying we can turn the room in another direction.”