Image Map
1 The Grocery Lift

The Grocery Lift is the newest addition to the Round House. Originally conceived after a letter was found written to Richard Foster by a student visitor suggesting it might be chore to carry groceries via the circular stairwell within the base. The child suggests an elevator to lift items onto the main level of the home. Decades later the owner collaborated with Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects as well as Electro Kinetics Inc to create the Grocery Lift.

2 Terrace
Summer (Upper Terrace) – Photo: © Iwan Baan 2016

Crucially, the architects incorporated reflective surfaces throughout so that views of the countryside are visible even when looking inward. Just off the kitchen, a clever series of sliding glass partitions diffuse light, but also conceal a fireplace and, in a study, slide shut to become a guest room. Meanwhile, sliding doors along the glazed perimeter open onto a porch. To bring the house up to code and to curb visual obstructions, Scogin and Elam designed a glass railing. Standing there on a misty spring afternoon, the calls of redwing blackbirds and blue jays harmonized with the hum of the house in motion.

3 Plumbing

The plumbing system is unique in that the plumbing fixtures are located in the rotating section of the house. Because of this, it was necessary to design an enclosed trough made up of two interlocking sections, one fixed (lower section) and one movable (upper section). The soil and waste piping from the fixtures is connected to the movable section of the trough which in itself is fastened to the rotating portion of the house, thus permitting conventional piping to be used from the trough to the plumbing fixtures. From the fixed section of the trough pipe connections are made which carries the drainage into a house drain which connects to the sewer. The interlock between the movable and stationary portion of the trough is filled with a liquid which acts as a seal, thus preventing sewer gases from the trough from entering the building.

Water is supplied from a well and the main cold water supply rises in the exact center of the core which is the fixed section. The top of this riser is provided with a ball joint which permits a 360° rotation of the branch that runs from this point to the movable section. All equipment is then located in the rotating section and is fed in a conventional manner.

Waste: Unique treatment of the waste lines allowed the fixtures to be located in the moving portion. (See sectional diagram)

Water: 360° valve, commercially produced.


4 The Stairwell
Stairwell – Photo: © Iwan Baan 2016

From the stair, one can access the living room, the kitchen, the master bedroom suite, or the children’s room— depending on where the house is in its orbit. A previous renovation eliminated a wall to unify the kitchen and living areas, but the architects also opted to remove additional partitions to allow for a more generous master bedroom suite and a larger bedroom.

5 The Bearing

The steel frame rests on a 14′ wide ball bearing ring which in turn carries the entire superstructure of 500,000 lbs. The steel structure is an intricate network of members, umbrella shaped, with a circle of columned supports and a space frame roof. The extreme ends of the floor beams are supported by hangers from the roof. The complexity of the framing and need for very strong connections pointed to steel as the only economical solution.

6 Cupola
The center column of the 1969 house offers a hint of the home’s functional artistry. Photos courtesy: Villiger – Susan Warner

With a diameter of 72 feet, the house has 2900 sq. ft. of living space. In addition a six-foot-wide deck—used almost constantly year-round—completely en-circles the house, providing another 1400 sq. ft. of space. The entrance is across a spacious open court-yard of Italian cobblestones to the pedestal, into a small foyer and a spiral staircase of 12 steps ascending to the living floor. Fabulous light, air and space greet the visitor in the central hall, which rises 30 feet to a skylighted cupola and opens to all rooms.