Is it a UFO? An art installation? A mod pod?

The harvest-gold flying saucer perched on a rocky ledge high above Idyllwild, California, is a Futuro house. It's also Milford Wayne Donaldson's 520-square foot vacation home.

Built in 1969, the plastic prefabricated home offers a glimpse into the optimism of its time, when space was a new, exciting frontier and people believed that new technologies could solve the world's problems.

First designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as a ski chalet, the idea behind the Futuro was to create a lightweight home that could be placed in a variety of landscapes. Futuros were initially manufactured in Finland, then licensed to companies worldwide. As many as 100 Futuros were built between 1968 and 1978, according to The Futuro House, a site documenting the history and whereabouts of the homes. Only 67 remain, with 20 in the United States.

Donaldson, a preservation architect who was President Barack Obama's appointee as chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, has made saving old buildings his life's work. So when this Futuro was crushed under a wrecking ball, he had to step in.

"I was just thinking of saving the building," he said. "I really wasn't interested in restoring it and keeping it. But once I started finding out how unique the Futuro was, I really got involved. It took me over."