April 6, 2004
Home Sweet Home, 2024
Rob Pegoraro’s tour through Microsoft’s home of the future reminded me of my own tour through a conceptual future home, lo these many years ago.
It’s circa 1990. My sister’s in town for the weekend, and my parents tell me to find some suitable family activity for us to undertake. Flipping through the section in the yellow pages that describes all the things one can allegedly do in Orlando, I come across the perfect thing — a useless only-in-the-land-of-Disney tourist trap created just to beguile naive children into dragging their hapless parents hence … Xanadu.
When we get there, it’s about an hour till closing time. Just as well, because the “tour” of the place only takes about half an hour. Also, I’ll probably suffer legitimate emotional damage if I have to spend any more time in that godawful structure. Imagine, if you will, the graphical rendering of an explosion from Final Fantasy II built out of frozen shaving cream.
Xanadu is now an abandoned, molded-out pod in the middle of nowhere, and some urban adventurers have brought it to the Internet for us all to see, as well as giving us some of the building’s history:
It was designed by architect Roy Mason. There were three of these built, one in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and this one in Kissimmee, FL. This is the last remaining house, as the others have been torn down. They were created by inflating large, walk-through balloons and spraying them with foam. After the foam hardened, doors and windows were cut out, and fireproofing and paint applied. The idea was to create a very energy efficient “smart” house controlled by a computer. The end result was something that looked like it came right out of Logan’s Run. The place ended up as a tourist attraction and eventually went under as technology developed and it became obsolete. The Kissimmee Xanadu closed in 1996 and was put up for sale. It was used for storage for a while by the owners and still not been sold to this day.
If you do nothing else this year, please take the opportunity to relive a part of my childhood. Watch at least a few minutes of the documentary about Xanadu. You won’t regret it.
(By the way, the future is clearly straw houses. You heard it here first.)