Cora Geissler Explains How She Learned to Love a UFO
As the owner of one of the world’s most iconic pieces of architecture, the Futuro House, Cora Geissler has been across the globe and through the trenches in an effort to save her masterpiece. Ripe with rousing tales of its history and daunting travels to South America, her story, entitled, “How I Learned to Love a UFO,” sheds light on the 40 year-old vessel that calls Berlin home known as, No. 13.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 12th issue of ODDA Magazine.
In 2002, you purchased the dilapidated Futuro #13 in a junkyard at the abandoned Spreepark, the old site of Kulturpark Plänterwald, a cultural park in the then German Democratic Republic in Berlin. At the time you said “wild ideas circled in my head: could one make an ice-cream parlour with ice-cream in the most bright colours? A cafe on the banks of the Spree, for hungry boat trips on the way to the Müggelsee? One thing, however, was clear to me: I wanted to save this UFO.” Since then, has your opinion concerning its purchase changed at all? In what unexpected ways has the house changed your life?
To save a UFO is a long and stony but exciting way – it needed lots of work on restoration and research to bring it back to life…we were lucky to build up a network with good members from museums, analyzing laboratories and universities… which is fantastic. They became friends over the years working on the project FUTURO13. It is a work in progress so it is still not finished, so maybe in 2020 a cafe or ice parlor can open to sell UFO ice cream…till then we use it as a project room and enjoy the atmosphere inside and outside.
After a brief stop at the Hanover Trade Fair of 1968, Futuro #13 was re-located to Spreepark. The original intention for the structure was that it would serve as the park’s radio station. What influences did its musical heritage have on the restoration process, if any? How has that history influenced you as homeowners? And, was there one thing in particular pertaining to its history that struck you as odd?
The Futuro13 was directly ordered by the GDR for the amusement park ‘KULTURPARK’. Inside the UFO, a DJ was sitting and playing the central music for all the loudspeakers in the park, and in addition shouted out the names of lost children waiting for their parents in the FUTURO house, that functioned as the children search station. We even now meet people who have good memories on the overfilled FUTURO – every child in the park wanted to be lost just to be able to see the mysterious Futuro house from inside.
When you acquired the home in 2002 you said, “The outer envelope was brittle, most of the Plexiglas windows had jumps, were scratched, or completely missing. The original interior design was no longer recognizable by various installations, important elements were missing.” Describing any unexpected discoveries or processes in discovery, what were these important elements that were missing? How did you come across them?
The first time going into the Futuro was a moment I‘ll never forget. Even being in a bad condition it was still marvellous- the former inhabitant went out really fast, from one moment to the other, to escape to LIMA, Brasilia –(but that isanother story) His shoes were standing in the floor – line, the breakfast table was still laid, everything was left like it was used to be.
At first, we got in contact with other FUTURO owners to check out the possibilities to produce for example new oval windows even ellipsoid, as well as the heating system…We also contacted the restoration team in Munich “Pinakothek der Moderne — Neue Sammlung” to get reliable information about restoring the skin of the roof full of holes…
Having no real knowledge of the UFOs history, what was your reaction when you found out it was originally designed as a ski hut in 1965 by the Finnish architect, Matti Suuro nen?
As fascinated like I was, I immediately started looking for more and more material that I could find about the UFO – pictures, texts, and so on. I found out, that the project has a name, FUTURO, and could suddenly put it into context and made it easier to learn more about its background. So, from being an unknown object it became an object with a birth location (Finland) and birthday (1968)
While on your journey, name five of the most uncharacteristic things you learned about the house, its located at Spreepark, or its designer, Matti Suuronen.
Matti Suuronen developed it cause of functional facts – of course he was influenced by the space age, but he thought about light weight material in order to transport it by helicopter, less volume inside in order to heat it up quickly, a roof to let snow fall down easily, flexible feet to let it build up easily in mountain terrains. Everything perfect as a ski cabin. And in Japan it was proven to protect against earthquakes and typhoons, successfully!
Three uncharacteristic facts you recognize after a while:
- The oval windows are like frames for the beautiful landscape and view on the river outside, so you do not need pictures at all.
- You do not need much stuff – even you have no space for it in the spaceship and you have no possibilities to store things in ‘normal furniture’ cause its ellipsoid in shape,
- With the hedge to close the door bridge from inside you feel like in an old castle
You’ve said that ‘by 1972 the oil crisis had tripled the price of plastic and made the production of the houses unprofitable and the emerging environmental protection demonized plastic as a threat to the planet’. With only 22 original Futuro’s in production, what unexpected experiences has having a house listed by the National Monuments Service in Berlin as a protected structure had on your life? On history?
It is not on the list of protected structures. Last year we start a documentary project called ‘FUTURO – the Future house from yesterday ‘. We want to discover the other houses all over the world and learn more about the other inhabitants.
Out of all of the options you opined for its repurpose, as briefly mentioned earlier, why did you choose to use it as a vacation home?
It is not a vacation home. We use it as a project room for lectures, discussions and sessions.
The Berlin Future #13 forms part of the ‘backdrop’ for a German TV series for children called, ‘Terra Max’ Tell us about how the unexpected object plays a role in the TV show, as well as any influence/s you may have had in the decision-making process to include it in such a production.
The movie company contacted me in the beginning of the process of the TERRA MAX shooting and asked if we can work together on this. Normally German television for kids is annoying, but this project caught me from the first moment. As a set designer, I was very excited to change the Futuro for the movie and make it into the home of an old, Russian space engineer working on a time machine, located in the middle of the FUTURO.
As a creative director, marketing manager and fashion editor, Kyle has
developed brand identities and creative strategies for a variety of
businesses and written on a variety of fashion topics for ODDA and Lab
A-4 magazines. With his background in advertising, he helps his
clients understand complex ideas, motivates them to action and
cooperates with media outlets to carry out successful brand
strategies. But the madness doesn’t stop there. He is also a recipient
of numerous international industry awards hosted by AVA, MarCom,
Hermes and GDUSA, and a judge of several international awards
competitions where he competently utilizes his passion for meaningful,
quality design to give constructive criticism and insightful design
advice to his peers.
As a creative director, marketing manager and fashion editor, Kyle has developed brand identities and creative strategies for a variety of businesses and written on a variety of fashion topics for ODDA and Lab A-4 magazines. With his background in advertising, he helps his clients understand complex ideas, motivates them to action and cooperates with media outlets to carry out successful brand strategies. But the madness doesn’t stop there. He is also a recipient of numerous international industry awards hosted by AVA, MarCom, Hermes and GDUSA, and a judge of several international awards competitions where he competently utilizes his passion for meaningful, quality design to give constructive criticism and insightful design advice to his peers.
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