Geodesic Dome is a hemispherical structure built from many triangles, which was named and popularised in the US by Buckminster Fuller.
History and Naming of the Geodesic Dome
The first geodesic dome was designed in 1923 by the engineer Walther Bauersfeld for a planetarium in the university city of Jena, Germany. Twenty years later the architect Richard Buckminster Fuller coined the term “Geodesic Dome” to it. R.B Fuller later popularised the dome in the U.S and even received a U.S. Patent for it. Sam Lanahan, the inventor and President of C6XTY Technology, had the honour of studying with Mr. Fuller.
Structure of the Geodesic Dome
The geodesic dome is a lightweight construction. It’s framework is built usually from steel or aluminium (wood and plastic are also possible) pipes / beams that are secured together to make many triangles. The triangles are connected to each other to create a spheric structure.
The triangles distributes the stress throughout the whole dome. Adding to their rigidity, the structure is not only very stable, but also able to hold heavy loads compared to it’s weight. Due to the stable nature of triangular structures in response to stress, the dome is able to support both itself and a relatively large load compared to its weight.
Furthermore, the dome can provide a small ratio of structural weight to area covered, and to volume enclosed. Accordingly, geodesic dome structures are highly, if not supremely, economical. The dome is not only strong, but also becomes stronger and more resilient the bigger it’s size.
Buckminster Fuller is known to have invented the idea of the Dymaxion House. He wanted to create houses that are easy to assemble and transport. Similarly to the Dymaxion House, that had also a spheric shape, Fuller believed that the Geodesic Dome can serve the same purpose. He deemed that geodesic domes can also be used to address the housing problem.
Fuller himself lived in such a dome for 11 years in 407 S. Forest Ave. in Carbondale, Illinois. It is actually the only house he ever owned, and it was amongst the first domes of this kind to be built for the purpose of living in it.
The house has gone through preservation and is taken care by the non-profit organisation RBF Dome NFP, that is dedicated to Fuller’s work. It is on the National Register of Historic Places list.
The domes homes were quite popular during the sixties and seventies, but during the years that have lapsed since then, some disadvantages to dome houses have been noted. Amongst them is the difficulty to find building materials since usually they are made for rectangular shapes, increased costs for fire escapes, electrical wiring and windows since the size of the domes is big. In addition, difficulty in partitioning the dome which affects privacy and and wasted spaces due to furniture that is put against curved walls.
Famous Geodesic Domes relating to Buckminster Fuller
Other then the dome home of Mr, Fuller in Illinois, these are two more notable Geodesic Domes that are worth mentioning:
The most well- known example of a Geodesic Domes in regards to Buckminster Fuller is the Montreal Biosphère. It is 203 ft high and 249 ft in diameter and located in Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Biosphere is the dome featured in the cover photo in the top of this page.
The Biosphere was designed by Fuller for the 1967 World Fair (Expo 67) and served as the American pavilion. It used to have a transparent bubble made from acrylic cells, which burnt down in a fire in 1976. The rigid truss that was made out of steel survived, and so the Dome still stands strong nowadays. Since 1995 it functions as an interactive environment museum.
The Dome at Woods Hole
This is an iconic dome, the oldest one built by Fuller, and it’s located in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This historically significant structure was constructed by students of Fuller in 1953. It was build in only three weeks from wooden beams that were cut at MIT campus of Cambridge.
It was abandoned in 2002 and degraded. Since 2016 efforts are being made to restore it by a group of local volunteers.