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GEODESIC HOMES

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HISTORY

The first dome that could be called "geodesic" in every respect was designed just after WWI by Walter Bauersfeld, chief engineer of the Carl Zeiss optical company, for a planetarium to house his new planetarium projector. The dome was patented, constructed by the firm of Dykerhoff and Wydmann on the roof of the Zeiss plant in Jena, Germany, and opened to the public in 1922. Some thirty years later R. Buckminster Fuller apparently came up with the idea independently and named the dome "geodesic" from field experiments with Kenneth Snelson and others at Black Mountain College in the late 1940s. Although Fuller cannot be said to be the inventor, he exploited and developed the idea, receiving a U.S. patent. The geodesic dome appealed to Fuller because it was extremely strong for its weight, its "omnitriangulated" surface provided an inherently stable structure, and because a sphere encloses the greatest volume for the least surface area. Fuller had hopes that the geodesic dome would help address the postwar housing crisis. This was in line with his prior hopes for both versions of the Dymaxion House.

In 1975, a dome was constructed at the South Pole, where a structure’s resistance to snow and wind load is important. Residential domes have been less successful than commercial domes, due largely to their complexity and consequent higher construction costs. Fuller himself lived in a geodesic dome in Carbondale, IL. Residential domes have so far not caught on to the extent that Fuller hoped. He envisioned residential domes as air-deliverable products manufactured by an aerospace-like industry. Fuller's dome home still exists, and a group called RBF Dome NFP is attempting to restore the dome and have it registered as a National Historic Landmark.

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