Without the money to begin construction, the idea sat on the back
burner for fifteen years, until the summer of 1988 when things began
to take shape. Bill hired family members to begin constructing the
steel domes, and hired earth moving equipment to remove the top of the
hill. The domes were created by erecting a number of vertical steel
trusses in a circle and connecting them with 3/8" steel rods
spaced at 8-inch intervals. Vertical rods were then welded between the
trusses to form a grid of 8-inch squares. The next summer a concrete
pad was poured with rubber tubing laid throughout for in-floor
heating. The steel frames were moved into position, connected together
and covered in expanded metal lath.
Once the metal frame was completely covered, Gunnite concrete was
sprayed over the entire interior surface, and trawled smooth. The
inside layer was concrete mixed with marble powder to form a smooth
white surface. The exterior of the house was covered in a waterproof
tar and buried in dry sand. A membrane layer of rubber sheeting was
placed over the entire area to act as an umbrella to keep the sand
mass dry. The sand mass is crisscrossed with air ducts that circulate
warm air from the solariums located at either end of the house.
Topsoil was then replaced overtop of the membrane, covered with grass
seed and gardens and now must be mowed on a regular basis.
Building an underground dwelling of this type poses a whole new set
of challenges. The design must be well thought out in advance because
any changes would be difficult or impossible once the earth was
replaced. Upgrades for things like phone, cable and power must be in
place at the time of building. Square furniture and appliances do not
fit in a round room, there are no corners to stick lamps, and hanging
pictures is tricky. All of these obstacles were overcome with
ingenuity and creativity.
Each room has buried conduit, through which wires can be passed,
connecting it to the other rooms and the utility room. The arched
doors were all hand made by Richard VanHeuvelan, as well as the
cupboards, desks and countertops, to fit in with the curved walls.
Four Seasons Solariums originally used on either end of the house have
been replaced with energy efficient stud and drywall rooms with large
bay windows. Furniture for the living room was created by Wolf Meuller
of Curved Space in Toronto and fits in perfectly with the
elliptical architecture. Even the refrigerator is round, it rises from
the countertop at the touch of a button, like the one in Fly Away
Pop Up Refrigerator
At the time of writing the house has been in use for
over thirteen years. There have been surprisingly few problems for a
design so radical, and the next designs will be even better. People
are always amazed when they come in for the first time at the sense of
space and amount of light created by the overhead skylights; some
people have to be taken up on the roof (hill) to see that the house is
actually underground. Because the house is on top of a hill, the North
solarium affords an excellent view of the valley and Lake Scugog in
This unique home situated in Blackstock, Ontario, has
been featured in several magazines including the first issue of Ikea's
Space, as well as Harrowsmith and Canadian Architect.
The home also has had it's share of televised media from around the
world and was featured in the CBC's Life and Times special on
Bill and the cable show Weird Homes.