This Concrete Ball Was Supposed to Be the Motel of the FutureS

In 1935, an inventor from Indiana devised a new way to build what he believed was the motel of the future. If William E. Urschel had had his way, tourists around the world would all be relaxing in these concrete golf-ball-looking structures by now. It's a good thing he didn't get his way.

Comparing his structures to the igloos of the Inuit people, Urschel's patent for his ball-motel building system described it as an "eskimo house building form." His structures were billed as offering a more efficient use of space, and Urschel claimed that they were also more convenient to build than old-fashioned houses with traditional building methods. And they weren't just for motels. Urschel imagined that these golf-ball designs could be used for gas stations, "tourist refreshment buildings," or even churches.

The October 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics magazine included an illustration of the building (above) and a few illustrations cribbed from the patent application.

This Concrete Ball Was Supposed to Be the Motel of the FutureS

A telescoping arm set up on a swiveling central point was used to feed concrete (at any thickness desired) down through a design head. As you can see from the illustration above, the wall may start out fairly thick to ensure strength near the structure's base, but could be made to be thinner as the arm raised, all while maintaining the consistent spherical shape on the outside.

Just a year before Urschel's concrete motels made their way to popular tech magazines, Everyday Science and Mechanics imagined a similar style of structure. Only this time the entire house could be transported by rolling it like a child's ball. Futuristic spherical dwellings were all the rage in the 1930s, where streamlined living contrasted with the downtrodden (and dusty) reality of the Great Depression. Here in the 21st century, of course, the spherical home doesn't extend much further than American Gladiators and your pet hamster.

Image: (Top) October 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics magazine (Bottom) Google Patents