Tucked away in the rolling knolls of Austin’s affluent Westlake neighborhood lies one of the city’s best kept architectural secrets: the Bloomhouse. Sited on a heavily wooded, 2.5-acre lot down a winding path accented with mushroom detailing, the eye-catching vacation rental promises to let visitors live in a fairytale world of whimsy — if only for a little while.
Billed as “the most unusual home in the world,” the all-white structure was a pet project created by architect Charles Harker for his friend and client Dalton Bloom. The fanciful, energy efficient house is composed of rebar, polyurethane foam and multiple layers of concrete stucco. Harker never drew up plans for the house and worked completely from a personal mental vision, often taking a hand-held pruning saw to areas of foam that he felt needed shaping. Construction began in the 1970s, but it took nearly 10 years for the house to be completed — in Harker’s words, banks were “not used to funding works of art.”
Harker was a part of a ragtag group of hippy architects that lived in Austin during the 1970s, dedicated to inspiring man to live in tune with the environment through contemporary architecture. As Harker put it in a “Good Morning America” interview, “If it’s as large as a house, if it’s something that affects your daily life, then there’s a possibility that you can make art functional in a way that helps a person to grow,” he said. “To become more than he was before …. That’s what I’m trying to achieve with my work.”