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What is a Geodesic Dome?


A complex network of triangles forms the geodesic dome

A complex network of triangles forms the geodesic dome

© Trevor Blake

A geodesic dome is a sphere-like structure composed of a complex network of triangles. The triangles create a self-bracing framework that gives structural strength while using a minimum of material. The term geodesic is from Latin, meaning earth dividing. A geodesic line is the shortest distance between any two points on a sphere.

The the idea of combining triangles with the arch was pioneered by German engineer Dr. Walther Bauersfeld when he designed the world's first projection planetarium, built in Jena, Germany in 1922. However, it was Buckminster Fuller ("Bucky") who conceived the concept of geodesic dome homes. Fuller's first patent for a geodesic dome was issued in 1954.

Geodesic domes are efficient, inexpensive, and durable. For $350, an African family can be housed in a corrugated metal dome. Plastic and fiberglass domes used for sensitive radar equipment in Arctic regions and for weather stations around the world. Geodesic domes are also used for emergency shelter and mobile military housing.

Examples of Geodesic Domes:

  • Spaceship Earth, the AT&T Pavilion at Epcot in Disney World, Florida, is an adaptation of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome
  • Tacoma Dome in Washington State
  • Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Conservatory
  • Biosphere desert project in Arizona
  • Des Moines Arboretum, a self contained ecosphere
  • Biosphere, constructed for 1967 Expo in Montreal, Canada. Fuller claimed that it would be possible to enclose mid-town Manhattan in New York City with a two-mile wide temperature-controlled dome like this one. The dome, he said, would pay for itself within ten years... just from the savings of snow-removal costs.
  • Geodesic Dome Houses
See Patent Drawings for the Geodesic Dome:

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