When it comes to practicality, geodesic domes are a contractor's worst nightmare. Where can you get windows that conform to hexagonal panels? Where should you install the pipes? Would a chimney look out of place? In spite of all these questions, we spent a good portion of the 1970s and '80s touting geodesic structures as the next big suburban fad.
The trend began, of course, after R. Buckminster Fuller received a patent for his geodesic domes in 1954. Although Fuller's idea wasn't entirely original, he is credited for formulating the structure's mathematics. Initially commissioned by the military and by specialized companies, Fuller's geodesic domes went on to become a viable solution to the postwar housing crisis. While most families continued buying conventional houses, fans of the geodesic dome spent several decades promoting it as a super strong, easy-to-build vacation home. If a second home were too expensive, you could always pitch stylish mini domes on your lawn.
Click to launch the photo gallery.
Suffice to say, the outdoor sun dome was a far simpler project than the numerous DIY geodesic houses advertised on our pages. The plastic structure reflected the dome house's properties on a small and manageable scale: it was strong, it was easily assembled, and its interior was always well-insulated. On sunny days, the inside of the plastic dome was reportedly 20 to 30 degrees warmer than the outside temperature, meaning that you could feasibly use it as a weather shield for year-round swimming.
Likewise, the geodesic home promised to cut people's electric bills at least 30 percent. Despite their inconvenient shape, geodesic domes require the least amount of surface area for any given interior volume. The inside of a geodesic home is not only spacious, but it distributes coolness and heat more effectively than a rectangular house. Because of the dome's superior insulation, families who purchased these houses claimed energy savings of up to 50 percent.
So why did geodesic homes fail to cross into the mainstream? Simply put, the novelty of their construction couldn't justify the work it took to get past code requirements and challenges with interior design. Tradition is not easily overridden. Building materials cater to rectangular structures, not rounded ones, and domes tend to leak between the seams during rainstorms.
While geodesic dome homes might have fallen short of our expectations, they remain an iconic symbol of the future that never was. Click through our gallery to read about Lester Walker's frame hung dome, Bucky Fuller's Hexa-Pent house, and more geodesic structures from the late 20th century.
No mention of one of the most iconic domes of all?
I mean of course Mickey Mouse's soccerball - SpaceShip Earth at EPCOT...
I seem to recall one of the reasons these didn't catch on with home-builders was that leaks were a big problem.
My husband's been into domes for years. He'll love reading this! www.royrivers.com/dome
Author of "A Painful Truth - The Entrapment of America's Sick"
I LOVE these "Archive Gallery" pieces. Keep them coming!
end of second paragraph should have read "...if a second home is too expensive."
A few years ago I bought this issue of PS at a library book sell. it is a very good issue. I'll think about selling it, if a good offer comes up.
Is there ANY way to get a hold of Les Walkers Frame-Hung Geodesic dome Plans? They were available through Popsci back in the 70's, is there any way to get a hold it in the present?
@jsbrads I think you need a grammar primer.
If you find how to get these plans, please let me know at fyio at comcast.net. Is it possible that they are at a public library?
What a nice articles post by all of you. Most of them is good. Thanks for sharing them. <a href="http://www.backpackunion.com/category/laptop-backpacks">Swiss Gear Backpack</a>