“our work, though perhaps smart, was by no means wise”

The geodesic dome  was the brainchild of Buckminster Fuller,  a polymath perhaps noted best for the number of his ideas than the successful execution of any of them. Geodesic domes are perhaps the most emblematically retro-futurist structure – in the 1980s, one thought we would be living in domes on the moon by the year 2000.

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At TreeHugger.Com, Lloyd Alter has a piece on his own experience of owning and living in (or trying to) a dome. The whole thing is worth reading, especially this closing section:

 

Lloyd Kahn of Shelter Publications wrote two books about dome building in the early seventies and built many of them. He wrote many years later:

Metaphorically, our work on domes now appears to us to have been smart: mathematics, computers, new materials, plastics. Yet reevaluation of our actual building experiments, publications, and feedback from others leads us to emphasize that there continue to be many unsolved problems with dome homes. Difficulties in making the curved shapes livable, short lives of modern materials, and as-yet-unsolved detail and weatherproofing problems. We now realize that there will be no wondrous new solution to housing, that our work, though perhaps smart, was by no means wise.

He goes on to describe the waste of materials (cutting triangles out of rectangles), the problems with plastics, the impossibility of roofing them properly, the issues of wasted space.

I learned from my dome why we have roofs that are different materials than walls, why we have roof overhangs, why windows are vertical instead of sloped, why square is better than round. Useful lessons, and an interesting ride getting here.

But with every generation there is revived interest in geodesic domes and I only have one bit of advice: Don’t do it.

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