Dome Architecture: Buckminster Fuller
Dome architecture harkens back to the days of Buckminster Fuller – one of the gurus of the dome architecture.
Buckminster Fuller came up with the geodesic dome. I met Buckminster Fuller back in the late ’70s and I remember how he would get so worked up talking about geodesic domes that he would get out of his wheelchair. He’d start yelling and getting excited about his concepts. Not to mention philosophies about geodesic domes.
The geodesic dome, the way he presented it, was a very creative and cutting-edge structure at the time. But as time went on, it wasn’t very functional in the use of designing everyday buildings. One of the more famous domes out there is Epcot Center. Epcot is a perfect way to visualize how you could use dome architecture. That is because the structure enclosed a large area.
Controlling Light and Temperature
Blocks of neighborhoods could control temperature and exposure to light. It was a concept that was very innovative at the time, but it did not catch on. Will the future bring that technology back? I don’t know. What I can tell you is that we can use that technology in morphing it with other technologies.
Stadiums are good examples because they use a truss system. And that structure developed out of the geodesic dome. We can use it with tensile structures that a lot of stadiums employ. Some don’t make effective use of it. But there are some of them that have been effective. It’s a technology that to this day is still evolving. It will continue to be useful.
This is not so with the dome. You cannot live in or work inside. This is because it’s not functional to how you are going to layer levels inside dome architecture. It’s difficult to see and do that.
There was once a company that developed a home that was a geodesic dome. Every now and then, in the countryside, you see one out there in the middle of nowhere. It was cool to see it, but I always wondered how functional it was to live in this dome outside in the middle of nowhere.
Epcot Center as an Example of Dome Architecture
There aren’t too many examples now, but the Epcot Center is a prime example. It was cutting-edge at the time. It housed a big area where you could go in and see the geodesic dome architecture that covered all this area. You could control the temperature within the building. For kids, there was an amusement park that was creative. It got their mind going. Made them think a lot, that’s what the purpose of it was. It was also more of a fashion statement.
This technology excited Buckminster Fuller. He championed through, and I remember him when he spoke. I will never forget that this one kid was crying in his presentation and he yelled at the kid. He told him how he should be paying attention. He yelled at his mom. Then he told her that she should teach the kid to pay attention to the technology since it is historic in nature. He made a big scene out of that. Most of us laughed about it, but needless to say, he was very, very passionate about that technology.
As it worked out, you don’t see these geodesic dome architecture popping out in every neighborhood. It didn’t quite work out, but his technology was visionary for its time.