Jetsons in Jeffco

A dream of the future from the past still looks great right now.

Similar, though simpler, than Wyoming National, the outrageous house was meant to be his own home -- and it would be the only example of a house design in his entire career. The Sculptured House became nationally and internationally famous as a rare-built example of the "House of the Future," and pictures of the house appeared in general-interest newspapers and magazines, the Woody Allen film and even on the Today Show. In addition to such pop-culture fame, the house also showed up in the architecture, art and design press and appeared in books and in professional journals, thus becoming the best-known and one of the most respected buildings in Colorado.

The first step toward building the Sculptured House was the creation of the sculpture-model made of plaster, which was done around 1960. Deaton then transformed his model into drawings by slicing through the sculpture and measuring the segments to establish the building's actual dimensions.

Deaton, an amateur pilot, spent months flying west of Denver to select a site for his Sculptured House, and his final choice, as we all now know, was fifteen acres on the summit of Genesee Mountain. The intentional and emphatic relationship of the Sculptured House with Genesee, and with the views in the area, is one of its defining characteristics.

Exterior view of Charles Deaton's Sculptured House.
Exterior view of Charles Deaton's Sculptured House.
Front door of the Sculptured House.
Front door of the Sculptured House.

Construction began in 1963; Deaton was on site throughout the process. The first step was to set the precast pedestal piers, which were anchored into the bedrock by steel rods running through their cores. The steel posts support the superstructure, a welded cage of steel, the shape of which was refined through the use of steel substructures. The entire thing was covered with metal wire mesh, and then concrete was pumped over it and a final surface of Hypalon infused with walnut shells and white pigment was applied. The walnut shells create a textured appearance and added structural integrity due to their extreme hardness.

Because the Sculptured House required a good deal of specialized hand labor, construction costs were relatively high, and Deaton estimated at the time that he spent between $100,000 and $120,000 to build it. The house was finished in 1966 to wild applause in the media. To say the Sculptured House became famous in the 1960s, and even more so in the 1970s -- which is when I first saw it -- is almost an understatement. In fact, I did not originally catch a glimpse of it when I was driving on I-70, but I looked at it for the first time in a photo show at the Museo d'Arte Moderna in Rome.

It's easy to see why the house became so famous: It's sort of unbelievable that it actually exists, even when you're looking right at it. The white organic form seems to fold over itself, interrupted only by walls of windows and a few wedge-shaped cutouts. The house appears to hover over the trees -- hence the "Flying Saucer House" nickname -- but that's just an illusion. It is firmly planted into the ground via an aggregate-and-glass cylindrical pedestal, which encases a serpentine, circular staircase and a round, tubular elevator. This elevator achieved fame itself in the movie Sleeper, as the "orgasmatron," a hypothetical chamber of the future that automatically produced orgasms in its occupants.

In 1965, still on a roll and hot on the heels of the triumph of the Sculptured House, Deaton designed another bank, Key Savings and Loan (now the Colonial Bank). The outrageous-looking bank -- a dome-like, cream-colored, curving organic form that wraps around a curving glass wall that faces the integral parking lot -- stands on Broadway just north of Hampden in Englewood. Completed in 1967, the bank's design is more closely related to the design of the Sculptured House than is any other building on earth, making it one of the most important structures in the state. However, it hardly generated the mega-publicity of the Sculptured House (nothing else Deaton did ever would) despite being illustrated and discussed in magazines and newspapers -- and retaining its original interior details.

The largest commission of Deaton's career came in 1967 with Kansas City's Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, which comprised both Arrowhead Stadium and Royals Park. The triumph of the complex was tainted for Deaton, however, when the collaborating firm, Kivett & Myers of Missouri, claimed sole architectural credit, even though the complex, as built, looked very much like Deaton's first model and drawings. An eight-year lawsuit ensued, which was personally and financially costly for Deaton; the suit was finally settled out of court.

In the 1970s, Deaton was part of a consortium that developed designs for stadiums based on the ideas expressed in the Truman Sports Complex. Unfortunately, it was never able to get a stadium commission, though a model and plans for a covered 84,000-seat convertible stadium for football and baseball was designed for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Also in the 1970s, and into the 1980s, Deaton designed several other unbuilt projects, including a trio of skyscrapers for Denver; a hotel, theater and shopping complex for Boulder; and a high-rise hotel and shopping complex for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Deaton created some of his most ambitious designs during this period -- his high-rise buildings have parts of the shafts cut away and sometimes have his particularly distinctive semi-circular footprints -- but the Truman Sports Complex was Deaton's last project to be built.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

What a well written and thorough story. We just drove by thus house and, for two architects, it was a thrill to see it and them read in depth about it.