It's been a while since I've written a post for my Retro Product Fail series, but when I saw this scanned Playboy article from 1972 on Flickr (credited to rchappo2002), I knew I had a winner on my hands.
Regardless of whether you call the inflatable edifice pictured below a bubble building, hemisphere house or pumped-up pleasure palace, we’re sure you’ll agree it’s the most revolutionary concept in mobile living since somebody invented the trailer—and a lot more fun. Created by a Los Angeles design group named Chrysalis, the polyvinyl Pneudome, when collapsed, fits into a 42”x60”x12” box. To turn on the bubble-house machine, simply spread the dome out on a flat surface, fill the base ring with water (optional cable anchorings also available), then attach the portable air blower to an external port—and up she rises.
In about eight minutes, you have nearly 500 square feet of living space to do with as your imagination dictates. And, to make sure your air castle doesn’t crumble, you keep the blower going; a gentle current of air not only ensures that the pad remains inflated but ventilated and dust-free, too.
Although opaque models are also available, we prefer the transparent number, shown here. The price for a Pneudome that’s 25 feet in diameter and ready to rise is about $1950 including blower—a sum that surely won’t blow your bank account.
So basically, this is like a giant bounce house for adults (without the bounce.) It sure does look and sound cool and I love the concept of environmentally friendly living spaces that was so prevalent in the 1970s. But it's a stretch to call this a house and I think any of us can have a gander at why it never caught on. Obviously there's no way to hook up plumbing, heat, or electricity to it. The only use I can really think of for it is to throw a party in it when you want to be outside on a rainy day or away from the sun. And...it would be very easy for someone to slash that thing and there goes your nearly $2,000 down the drain...
Speaking of which, that amount of money for such a contraption, even back in 1972, sounds like a lot of moola to me for something you can't do much with. Maybe Playboy had the right idea by referring to it as a pleasure palace, as that's all it's really qualified for.
I couldn't find any info on Chrysalis, how long they were in business, and what their other houses looked like. Here's the rest of the article:
Wait a minute...how did they illuminate that thing at night?