Architect Gilbert Spindel’s round houses — escaping “the monotony of the rectangle”

Spindel-house-plans-retroSince moving into her round house, Sarah has been searching for more information about Gilbert Spindel, the architect who designed her “Geodesica.” In her search, she has found quite a bit about Spindel from scouring the web, finding vintage home plan books and magazines, and receiving some information from other Geodesica owners. This included a tip from reader Cathy, who shared scans of the round house design that she found in an old magazine with Sarah. Sarah was then able to track down a copy of the magazine on ebay and add it to her collection. Thank you, Cathy!!!


Sarah writes:

I found an article about my ‘Geodesica’ floor plan in an old issue of New Homes Guide Magazine. The article goes over the floor plan and the story behind the design of the house. It features photos of the first one built in Norfolk, VA and tells how the architect Gilbert Spindel was inspired to modify the plan a bit to sell to the masses.

Main article text reads:

The home circle in the real can be most satisfying from a visual, atmospheric, and — yes, a practical viewpoint. This has been proved for many readers of this magazine who have built the round house shown or one of its smaller successors presented in the Design Section later to meet demand.

Actually, it all started with the castle-in-the-air that NEW HOMES GUIDE’s Gilbert Spindel brought to reality for the owner, interior designer Edward M. Hollbrook, A.I.D., of Norfolk, Virginia. Then Mr. Spindel, realizing the possibilities, revised the interior plan to suit more general requirements. 

While the plan has a delightful, open unity, careful designing has incorporated privacy for sleeping quarters and an orderly traffic flow. And contrary to what you might expect, there are no odd-angled, unusable spaces in any of the rooms.

From a construction standpoint this round house turned out to be economically sound. Standard unit masonry–concrete block finished with stucco–was used for the outside wall and the ring forming the living rotunda. At this central point, the house is 14 feet high, the outer circle only 8 feet. The diameter stretches to a full 60 feet.

Sarah’s efforts to learn more about Spindel’s work led her to discover his involvement with the Federal Civil Defense Administration, where he designed houses to test the affects of atomic bombs. She said:

Turns out Gilbert Spindel, the architect of my round house, worked for the FCDA after and maybe during WWII. He designed the planes and specs for the two test houses used in Operation Upshot Knothole. This was done to see the effects of atomic bomb destruction on civilian homes, automobiles etc.

You can see more about Operation Upshot Knothole on this video — the part about houses comes into view around 7:30.

This really gives new meaning to my atomic era house!

gilbert-spindel-letterAbove: Sarah has connected with other owners of round homes,who also shared their information on Spindel. Tara, who owns the Geodesica in Arkansas, shared the letter (above) from Spindel to her grandmother regarding her round house.

round-house-planAbove: Even though the house plan on the page above isn’t one of Spindel’s Geodesicas, but the text of the article further refers to the Geodesica built by Tara’s grandparents and details their excitement.

The article reads:

New approach to the circular house. As a change of pace from the monotony of the rectangle and the often box-like effect of severly modern houses, a few architects have introduced the circle into residential design. Gilbert Spindel’s completely circular Plan No. 2306 in the NHC 41st Edition has proved immensely popular. In fact, its prompted numerous letters from enthusiastic readers. (One family, the ____ of Arkansas, chartered a plane to fly across half the U.S. to see an already-constructed “round house” by designer Spindel. “We just loved it,” writes Mrs. ___. “We’ve selected our lot and plan to build this year — the first round  house, to our knowledge, in Arkansas. Thanks for giving us this unique house — and, amazingly enough, four sets of plans for $59!

In response to many requests, Mr. Spindel has designed a considerably smaller version — the one you see here. Combining a semi-circular bedroom wing and rectangular living areas, it offers a living arrangement that’s very practical. Note the covered lanai at rear, the utility “mud room” at service entry and garage storage. House is 1,620 sq. Ft.

 More house designs by Gilbert Spindel:

Gilbert-Spindel-planSarah’s research continues to produce round home plans by Spindel. She’s collected quite a few and is constantly on the look out for information on her home’s architect. Above: Spindel’s design “The Visionary”, which included two half-circle bedrooms that shared a Jack ‘n Jill style bathroom.

mid-century-round-houseplansAbove: Another Spindel plan — “the Modernist” — featured a circular dining area.

House-with-round-courtyardAbove: Spindel didn’t just make circular rooms — this plan incorporates a circular courtyard in the center of the home. Very futuristic.


mid-century-octagon-houseAbove: Spindel added some corners in this “hexagon house.”

Sarah, thanks for sharing the results of your investigation thus far with us. And Cathy, thanks for tipping Sarah to this old reference so that she could build her library — that was so kind of you!

See all of the stories about Sarah’s Round House by clicking here.

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  1. EMiller says

    The circular courtyard reminds me of a funeral home in my area, in a good way. Their central courtyard is rectangular, but the affect is very peaceful. They enclosed theirs with a wire “roof” and made it a giant bird cage. It was really neat!

    • Roundhouse Sarah says

      Hi Dara! I would love to know more about you and your home. Please contact me on Facebook.

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