Orgone Research

Friday, September 15, 2006

Geodesic Domes

I like geodesic domes. I became aware of Bucky Fuller only a few years ago. That is to say, I first read Fuller only a few years ago. In Fuller we have a man imbued with idealism, and it's hard not to root for the idealist underdog. But my natural skepticism interfered with any wide-eyed belief in his concepts. Fuller advocated all kinds of woo nonsense, like man having devolved from aquatic animals. He also claimed gold was the most electrically conductive metal. Ultimately I think Fuller was one of those rare individuals who is both a visionary and a crank, simultaneously. Though he advocated all kinds of things, he is most commonly associated with the geodesic dome. As someone who likes solid geometry, I find geodesic domes quite beautiful.
To temper one's idealism for the geodesic dome, I highly recommend the book Shelter, edited by Lloyd Kahn:
Kahn wrote Domebook 1 and Domebook 2 back in the hippie days, both considered classics. By 1973, Kahn's enthusiasm for geodesic domes had been tempered by the reality of actually building and living in them. By the time he wrote Shelter, Kahn began to deflate some of the Fuller mythology. Domebook 3 is included in Shelter. On page 111 Kahn writes;
"We made an error in Domebook 2 in stating that Buckminster Fuller was the inventor of the geodesic dome. Fuller's contribution, rather than origination of the great circle principle, or its earliest structural utilization, is rather application of the word geodesic to this type of polyhedral building framework, and its popularization and commercialization in the United States."
Kahn goes on to detail the various practical problems with geodesic domes for residential use here:
One of Kahn's big points is this: "Domes are difficult to roof. And if not roofed exceptionally well, they will leak like a sieve". In my travels around the United States, I see geodesic domes from time to time, and many are simply the roofs of petroleum storage tanks. Has the oil industry solved the leakage problem? For sure, the oil men are not a bunch of idealistic hippies, you can bet they would not use inferior technology.
That said, domes simply look cool. Dana and I saw this one yesterday in La Grande Oregon. We stopped and took pictures. The man working there at "Dome Plumbing" was kind enough to let us inside. The interior bracing struts appeared to be made of wood, and was covered with spray-on foam insulation. Several angular pieces of sheetrock had been put over that, at least in one spot. The interior seemed to be acting as a mini-warehouse for plumbing supplies. The exterior appeared to be well shingled, and I can see it is possible to make the shingles overlap, even while conforming to the uniquely curved surface.
I'll post more on geodesic domes later.


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