When the “houses of the future” of the 50’s rot in the sun

It all starts with silence. The kind of calm that only heat, humidity and abandoned places can create. Ahead of us is an entrance where multiple pathways jut out to arched doorways. Behind, a tree-lined driveway leads to the sea. Except that instead of a great thoroughfare there is urban decay. Concrete barriers block access, grass eats the sidewalk, rust drips from metal fixtures, painted walls fade under decay.

We stray from the main road into a timeless neighborhood. Trees and plants try to reclaim their rights over dilapidated buildings, a sinister harmony of nature and entropy. But the buildings are unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s like we’ve been transported to a promised future in the 1950s.

The oval windows of the structures themselves oval evoke UFOs. Nearby, rectangular houses with rounded corners hint at a future shaped by the space age. But the collapsed roofs, shattered windows and sagging walls remind us of reality.

We are on the north coast of Taiwan, one hour north of Taipei. This neighborhood of abandoned Futuro and Venturo houses has no official name, but it is called by some the Wanli UFO Village.

A broken promise

We begin our exploration under a blazing sun. It’s easy to imagine this place as new, its potential, its state-of-the-art architecture and its underlying promise of a high-tech future. Curved lines of walls and windows, modern building materials interspersed with stones and tiles. It was a more hopeful time. Eyes on the future, enthusiasm for jets and rockets, the promise of worlds beyond the horizon. But this dream never existed. The reality then is as harsh as that of today. These houses are a vestige of this falsification of an ideal, even here, at the other end of the world from where it was born.

Glass creaks under our feet as we peek inside a Venturo. Floor to ceiling windows have been blown out onto the patio. Inside, the ceiling has collapsed, covering remarkably well-preserved furniture with debris.


Every house is a confused mixture of disorder and order. Glassware lines up in kitchens, while cabinets disgorge their wares chaotically. Some cupboards are full, others completely empty. Most houses seem too run down to enter without safety shoes and a tetanus shot.

A Futuro less dilapidated than the others invites us to enter. The interior is difficult to grasp. It’s as if the owners have suddenly left, expecting to return in a few days or weeks. Slippers wait near the door for the feet of a family. Spices, glassware and pans sit patiently in the kitchen. Blankets stay folded in a closet. There are even sheets on one of the beds.


And yet, they have not left recently. A layer of dust and dirt covers everything. Rust attacks anything made of metal. When did these people leave, and why? Did someone come back later to clean up and then gave up? How come everything is so intact? If this were the United States, every surface would be covered in graffiti, anything not nailed down would be long gone.

We continue our exploration. There are probably a dozen Futuro and Venturo houses. As we approach the edge of the site, we hear voices, which is surprising when we find ourselves in a seemingly abandoned place. Around the corner, we see half a dozen men lounging in the shade of a building, relaxing and eating. We see them, they see us see them, and they do nothing. We didn’t break in, but it’s still weird to be here. These men don’t care about our presence.


We turn back inside the complex. The Futuros here are in a much more dilapidated state. Windows gone, interiors shattered, these structures look far more abandoned than you might expect.

We then see two people in their twenties taking pictures and marveling like us in front of the buildings. Seeing them puts us more at ease, we feel less like an intruder.

We continue our way towards the beach and are then picked up by a shocking image: a blazing Tesla Model S parked in front of a renovated Venturo. It is by far the building in the best condition of all. But there are still two or three other Venturos and a Futuro in good condition, with clean curtains on the windows. It is difficult to say what the fate of these houses is. Squatted? Under renovation? One more mystery for this mysterious place.

The harsh reality of time

The early afternoon heat took its toll. Even the cicadas seem to have admitted defeat and calmed down. We slowly walk towards the main road to catch the bus that will take us back to Taipei. This getaway plunged us into a funny atmosphere. The person who financed this project clearly had the idea of ​​a possible future. The people who built these houses, too, must have seen the potential in their work.

A search on the Internet yields a slew of conflicting information. It is said that these constructions date from the 1960s. According to Atlas Obscura, this “Wanli UFO Village” would have been built in the 1970s. This seems extreme to us because 40 to 50 years of this weather would have had much more impact. And then the TV and the VCR that we came across do not date from the 1970s.


Our friend Ping who lives in Taipei did a web search for us in Mandarin which came up with some more believable evidence. A seemingly well-documented site places the construction in the early 1980s. The houses are believed to have been abandoned perhaps 10 years later. This timeline seems the most likely. There is also a likely connection to the famous, now demolished Sanzhi UFO houses that once stood further up the coast.

One can’t help but wonder what happened to the owners of these homes, the families who clearly lived here for a while, or at least vacationed here. What will happen to these structures? There aren’t many Futuros and Venturos left in the world. Will these houses suffer the same fate as the Sanzhi UFO houses, as one rumor suggested, were doomed for destruction because of the value of the land they sit on?

These houses are a slice of another world, out of space and time. A look at what once was, and what could have been. What nature will do to all buildings, if given its place. A reminder that a capitulation in the war against entropy will lead to the slow but inevitable destruction of all that is created by man. That there is beauty, promise and reality in design.

When the “houses of the future” of the 50’s rot in the sun – CNET France