The design reflected Fuller’s idea that human life tended toward “ephemeralization”, or the technological tendency to (as he often repeated) “do more with less”. The idea that human activity was moving from the physical to the abstract has proven prophetic, and is responsible for part of Fuller’s continued popularity among those who credit him with extraordinary foresight. But the dome would become Fuller’s visual legacy. With its sci-fi roundness and fly-eye paneling, it looked nothing like a Colonial, a Craftsman bungalow, or even the more modern ranch house, the silhouettes of which made up the landscape of the American Quarter. While some of Fuller’s past inventions – the Dymaxion house and car – were equally cool, they were much more difficult to replicate and disseminate. The dome, on the other hand, presented a ready-made symbol of post-war American society.
They also became tools during the Cold War. As Fuller’s wife Anne wrote in a letter to her student and protege Peter Floyd in 1957, geodesic domes were used by Marines in combat, farmers on the “front line of agricultural offense”, in the auditoriums (what Anne called the “front line”). cultural offence”), and even in playgrounds, where children from the “infantile frontier” were hung from “playdomes”. Not only could the domes house a growing population, Anne argued, but they could build young muscle, win hearts and minds, and expand the military’s ability to operate in remote locations. This proud list of militaristic and nationalistic applications would surprise hippies who later came to see the dome as a symbol of off-grid self-sufficiency and used the subway. Dome cookbook (published by Steve Baer in 1968) to build round dwellings on their commons. But over its 20th-century career, the geodesic dome combined all of these meanings, becoming a “space-age” marker as much at home at Disney World as it is in the hills of Santa Cruz.
The domes had obvious potential, but the truth is, as Nevala-Lee quietly shows through the example, they had significant issues. Fuller built his own home in one in Carbondale, Illinois, where he served as a teacher for a time. It wasn’t child’s play to set up, as he had promised. Although erecting the hull took only a day’s work (during which Fuller continually lectured workers and onlookers), the rest of the construction took “months, as electricians and plumbers struggled to make sense of a house that lacked conventional angles.” Anne tried to hang pictures on the walls, but they would “just sort of hang from the curve,” and the dome leaked until Fuller gave up and covered it with shingles After all, wrote architect, writer and former dome advocate Lloyd Kahn in 1973, 90 degree walls had their advantages: dust, rain doesn’t sit on it… It’s easy to integrate counters, shelves, arrange furniture, bathtubs, beds… And Stewart Brand wrote in 1994, in a mea culpa for having promoted the idea of the dome in the Whole Earth Catalog“The interior was essentially one large room, impossible to subdivide, with too much space wasted on height…Worst of all, the domes couldn’t grow or adapt.”