Seven Rotating Houses and Towers That Turn Our Crank

heliotrop roof photo
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Roof of Rolf Disch's Heliotrop House.

Passive solar through windows or active solar though hot water or photovoltaics work best when perpendicular to the sun. So cue up Paul McCartney's "I'll follow the sun" and see seven houses and towers that are designed to do exactly that.

heliotrop overview photo

1) Heliotrop House :Architect Rolf Disch built his own home as a test bed for solar systems. The house tracks the sun, so that its triple-glazed front can face the warming sun in winter and show its well insulated back in summer.

The balcony rail is a solar vacuum tube to heat water. Photovoltaics on the roof rotate independently to track the sun, generating four to six times the energy needed for the house, making it beyond zero energy and into "das Plusenergiehaus" or a "Plus-energy House."

It not only rotates and is solar powered, generating 5 to six times what it needs to run the house, it is prefab, using pre-manufactured parts and pieces. The primary structural material is glue-laminated wood beams. Spruce was chosen because it is grown regionally and is a rapidly renewable material.

If that is not enough, there is on-site composting, chemical free sewage treatment and rainwater catchment. Rolf Disch's Heliotrop House

heliotrop base photo

base detail showing tubing for hot water
2. Villa Girasole


The oldest rotating house we have found is Angelo Invernizzi's Villa Girasole (Villa Sunflower) near Verona, Italy. "The two storied and L shaped house rests on a circular base, which is over 44 meters in diameter. In the middle there is a 42 meters tall turret, a sort of conning tower or lighthouse, which the rotating movement hinges on. A diesel engine pushes the house over three circular tracks where 15 trolleys can slide the 5,000 cubic meters building at a speed of 4 millimeters per second (it takes 9 hours and 20 minutes to rotate fully). " 1935: Villa Girasole: Rotating House Follows the Sun

3) Everingham Rotating House

everingham photo

This Australian house rotates around a central pivot point. "It also encapsulates many aspects of ecologically sound building principles, such as optimising on natural light and heat, while rotating 180o to take advantage of sunshine and shade at different times of the day and year."

The Everingham model is a 24 m (79') diameter octagon with a 3-metre (10'), 360-degree verandah. It weighs 50 tonnes, but can rotate a full 360-degrees, around a central core of plumbing and electricals. Within this core is also a geothermal piping system (120 metres long and 2.5 metres deep), supplying a constant 22oC to the house.

4) Massau Rotating House


50 years ago François Massau built this rotating house so that his sickly wife could enjoy sunshine and warmth any time of the year. Massau was an eccentric builder who does not appear to have been very nice, and spent his last years fighting in court, dying alone and penniless at 97 in 2002. However his house survives, with its fixed roof and house that turns beneath it.

5) Maisons Labbe Turntable House


We now enter the realm of speculation, of proposals that are not yet built. In Nice, France, Frederic Plazar has designed a series of turntable houses ranging from 80m2 (861 SF) to 140m2 (1506 SF). The Maisons Labbé website calls it a "Bioclimactic house", that uses 60% less energy than a conventional house.

6) Glenn Howells' rotating "sustainable" Dubai Condo

glenn-howell dubai exterior image

Its hot in Dubai, and everyone wants water view- so Glenn Howells is building "an eco-friendly sustainable design, using solar power to revolve the cylindrical form and recycling water to irrigate the landscaped gardens. The concept for the façade design has evolved through the use of intricate layers and textures that also help to address the extreme heat conditions in Dubai, while providing the residents with energy efficient control of their internal environment.

howells interior image

The dual-skin breathing façade creates a dynamic appearance and adds depth to the building with interesting materials including high performance glass with neutral coating and gold screens." We like the line in the advertising: "Awake one day to see panoramic lake views and another day to see beautiful landscapes and the worlds biggest shopping mall"

7) David Fisher's Rotating Tower in Dubai

fisher tower image

We have been dubious about Architect David Fisher's rotating tower for Dubai, with its wind turbines built in between each floor, and its claims that "the building will generate 10 times more energy than required to power it." We also wondered about how "The new tower is the first building of its size to produced in a factory. Each floor, made up of 12 individual units, complete with plumbing, electric connections, air conditioning, etc., will be fabricated in a factory. These modular units will be fitted on the concrete core or spine of the building at the central tower."


But perhaps we were wrong. Inhabitat tells us that "Construction is going to start soon, with an official launch later this month."

fisher dubai night shot

But it may not be easy; Robert Oullette writes:

"The architect describes three technologies that the project relies on for its success. First is the ability for architecture to be dynamic, to constantly change its form. Second, is the integration of power-generating technologies that let the building generate more power than its inhabitants consume. Third, is the factory-based construction that will reduce the number of site workers, speed construction time, and improve the final finish quality.

Take a look at this rather pretentious video for an explanation of the tower. What's my take on it? Before I was an architect I followed a Buckminster Fuller inspired career path working in aircraft manufacturing for the de Havilland Aircraft Company. I've seen the technologies required to make this work from both sides of the technology spectrum, and odds are that this building will fail to meet its objectives. That does not mean it is an unworthy experiment. Inventing new ways of sustainable living will not be easy or cheap; however, we have little choice but to try and if it takes $139 oil to get us there so be it."