Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Rooms With a View

The Revolutionary Design of Wilton's Round House



Pam Rouleau (gallery below)

New Canaan may have Philip Johnson’s Glass House, but Wilton has Richard Foster’s Round House. And like Johnson’s masterpiece, the Round House also happens to have glass walls. Completed in 1968 and set on just under four picturesque acres on Olmstead Hill Road overlooking Pope’s Pond, the Round House has been compared eloquently to a space ship, and less eloquently, to a giant mushroom. Regardless, it deserves as many architectural accolades as other better known residences designed by architects of the same period, like Johnson, Frank Lloyd Wright and Michael Graves. The house did receive international attention during the construction phase and after completion; articles ran in publications like Architectural Record and the New York Times, and newspapers as far away as Shreveport, Louisiana;Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Paris, France. It also garnered one of 12 architectural awards given out in 1969 by the American Institute of Steel Construction. The Fosters, who owned the house until 2004, received a steady flow of curious visitors, some who simply observed the house from a distance and others, emboldened, who asked if they could have a tour of the interior. But unlike the Glass House, which was turned into a museum, the Round House, has remained a home, and perhaps because of that, has fallen into relative obscurity. Many people in town may not realize the architectural significance of this unusual structure.

Foster, a New York City-based architect who worked with Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson on many high profile projects, including Lincoln Center, the Seagram’s Building and the New York World Fair Pavilion, designed the Round House for his family. The shape—a glass disk mounted on a concrete base—is not its only unique feature; the house actually rotates 360 degrees. In interviews at the time, Foster explained the genesis of his idea. “[I wanted] to take advantage of the varied and beautiful views. The site is a natural amphitheater, and earlier plans didn’t take full advantage of it. When the idea [of building a round, rotating house] came to me, the only problem was finding the right parts.”  He said his wife “thought the idea was revolutionary but was all for it,” and added, “As far as I know, this hasn’t been done before in any country.”  He was right about that. In 1968, his Round House was the first and only round, fully rotating house in the world.

Designing almost 3,000 square feet of circular and revolving living space presented Foster with a myriad of structural and engineering challenges. The 72-feet in diameter structure rests on a concrete core, which houses a three-ton ball bearing system, the type used for large cranes and warship gun turrets. This system, which he designed, is what enables the 500,000 pound structure above to rotate. The controls, located inside a box no larger than a shoebox and powered by a 1½ horsepower motor, are simple: forward, backward and stop. The rotation speed can be adjusted, enabling the house to move nine inches to five feet per hour, and make from five to 26 full rotations in a 24-hour period. Foster explained that “even at highest speed, motion isn’t perceptible, except by watching changing scenery go by.  A complete rotation takes just 48 minutes when the dial is set at top speed.”

Foster also designed a set of complex steel rings and columns to transfer the weight of the cantilevered living space above to the bearings in the concrete core, 12 feet in diameter, below. This system works to equalize the weight in any part of the house at any given time, so that a crowd of people can gather in the living room without having an equal counterbalance in a room on the opposite side of the house. The pole running up through the center of the core is non-structural; it carries waste pipes and electrical and telephone wires from the core to rotating connections in the living spaces.

To enter the house, visitors walk across a circular cobblestone terrace, spanning the width of the structure which appears to hover above. The front door, curved to mirror the contour of the base, opens into a small vestibule and a metal spiral staircase leading up to the main floor. The original layout included nine rooms, but the interior has been updated and today, has been reconfigured to seven: a rotunda/foyer, kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom with a walk-in closet and bathroom, an office and a second bedroom with a bathroom. While Foster used floor-to-ceiling panels of glass for the exterior walls to provide uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape, he carpeted many of the interior walls. “Carpet on walls is good for hanging paintings...it softens the room and when you move a painting, it’s self healing,” he explained in interviews. Today, most of the carpeting has been removed, and replaced with plaster, although the walls of the rotunda are covered in soft grey pebbled leather, and those inside the core still have the original carpeting.

Foster used many durable, low-maintenance materials, including pre-rusted steel for the frame and window mullions and glazed ceramic tiles for the flooring, which have since been replaced with oak flooring. The underbelly of the house and the roof are covered in cedar shingles. A five-foot wide terrace, constructed with a fiberglass-base resin-top material similar to the material used on ship decks, wraps around the entire living space. The 30 floor-to-ceiling window bays include several sliding doors that provide access to the deck.

In the interior, the wedge-shaped rooms radiate from the core, and flow seamlessly into the adjacent spaces. They are simply and sparsely decorated, allowing the views to take center stage. The living room, furnished with sleek contemporary sofas and chairs, opens onto the rotunda, which has a vaulted ceiling. The oval fireplace, made from the same pre-rusted steel as the exterior frame, echoes the curved lines of the house. The original kitchen, described as a “masterpiece of efficiency”, has been updated with granite and stainless steel counters and appliances. It includes a moveable workspace, stored under the kitchen island, ready to be pulled out for more counter space. The en-suite master bedroom has a large walk-in closet, with built-in storage and a bathroom with a curved, tile shower. Because the house lacks a traditional basement or attic, Foster made efficient use of the existing space by designing built-in shelving, drawers and several storage closets. A garage—no, it is not round—adjacent to the house includes a guest cottage with a bedroom, bathroom, and small kitchen. The cottage also serves as the pool house for a rectangular lap pool, located just a few steps away. Although the house is barely visible from Olmstead Hill Road, a long wooden fence running the length of the end of the driveway provides added privacy.

Perched up on its hill, the Round House offers more than spectacular views of the property and beyond, from any room, any time of day. It represents a piece of architectural history. Now on the market, through JoAnne Fisher at William Pitt/Sotheby’s International Realty, the house may not appeal to everyone—lacking 21st-century amenities like a family room, mudroom, and home theater—but no other house in town can beat the views.

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

               

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Collecting History

When Clyde Phillips and Jane Lancellotti moved here from L.A., they fell in love with a stucco house in South Wilton. They bought it, and embarked on an 18-month renovation, yet kept many original details intact. Today, the handsome structure is home to their family and their eclectic collections.

This New Old House

This interior designer and author of New Spaces, Old World Charm practices what she preaches. When she and her husband renovated their antique home, they created a new old house, full of modern amenities but loaded with period details and ambiance.

Established Character

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

August 2018

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Morning exhale flow on the water! Yoga on the Boardwalk returns every Sunday morning, beginning in May, on the Harbor Point Boardwalk.  Led by our Yoga Teacher, Shannon Aleksa. Her...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harbor Point Boardwalk
1 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Website »

More information

First stop—Pedego, where you and your friends explore the waterfront roadways, picturesque winding routes north of the shoreline, and everything in between on a Pedego Electric Bike....

Cost: $50

Where:
Meet-up at Pedego
50 Water St
Norwalk, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County and Wilton Library invite you...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Telephone: 203-762-8958, ext. 316.
Contact Name: Laurie Petrasanta
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Sing choral classics on Tuesdays in August! Each week, a different work led by a different conductor. No performance, no worries: just show up and sing. Summer Sings are a relaxed way to...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Presbyterian Church
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Music on the Hill
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Back by popular demand! Professional book discussion leader Susan Boyar will discuss 6 short stories published in The New Yorker magazine over 6 consecutive weeks. Each Wednesday's...

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enrollment is now open for the next Stamford EMS Safe Sitter class. Children in grades 6-8 will learn the skills needed to care for themselves and young children so they may become safe and...

Cost: $75

Where:
Stamford EMS
684 Long Ridge Rd
Stamford, CT  06905
View map »


Sponsor: Stamford EMS
Telephone: (203) 252-2193
Contact Name: Laura Roberts
Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Trace the life cycle of food at Grace Farms with Community Garden Manager Ashley Kenney, Pastry Chef Leah Jones, and Director of Operations Adam Thatcher. From produce and cut flowers used in the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Farms
365 Lukes Wood Road
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Stamford EMS and Safety4Kids (S4K) are teaming up to present an important summer safety event: a Bike Safety Roundup on Saturday, August 18th at Chelsea Piers from 9am – 10am.  ...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Chelsea Piers Connecticut
1 Blachley Road
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: Stamford EMS and Safety4Kids (S4K)
Telephone: 203-968-1118
Contact Name: The Loft at Chelsea Piers Connecticut
Website »

More information

InSitu is an eight-acre sculpture garden where nature and art dramatically interact. Nestled in the rural countryside near Redding, the property is surrounded by the 312-acre Saugatuck Waterfall...

Cost: $7 per private garden; children 12 & under free.

Where:
Redding, CT


Sponsor: The Garden Conservancy
Telephone: 888-842-2442
Contact Name: Open Days program staff
Website »

More information

Explore the InSitu garden in Redding, open for self-guided tours to benefit the Garden Conservancy. This eight-acre sculpture garden is a showcase of architecture, horticulture, and art, seamlessly...

Cost: $7 per person, children 12 and under free

Where:
InSitu
73 Diamond Hill Road
Redding, CT
View map »


Sponsor: The Garden Conservancy
Telephone: 888-842-2442
Contact Name: Open Days Program staff
Website »

More information

Looking for some family-friendly activities this summer? Visiting museums is educational and engaging for even young children, but tickets can often be expensive. Luckily, The Friends of Keeler...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 titicus road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

The Lewisboro Library’s Nightclub Concert Series has a special treat on Saturday, August 18 – a “Beatles Night” featuring a Beatles tribute band and a Beatles Trivia...

Cost: $30/per person

Where:
Lewisboro Library
15 Main Street
South Salem, NY  10590
View map »


Sponsor: Lewisboro Library
Telephone: 914-875-9004
Contact Name: Liz Gabriele
Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Hiking and practicing yoga outside in the fresh air leaves you feeling uplifted, centered, and peaceful! In warm weather months, we meet regularly in various parks and trails. Each event starts...

Cost: Three and Five Class Packages (3 times for $33, 5 times for $42)

Where:
Vary with each class
, CT


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags