GEODESIC DOMES (& TANKS!) FOR HUMANS – EFFICIENT OR FARCE?

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 16:32.

horton sphere poughkeepsie gas surge tank pressure vessel riveted steel geodesic dome puzzle

8.6.12   Above is a very recent image  of a Horton Sphere taken from the Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York.   Named after the principal behind Chicago Bridge and Iron, these vessels were constructed beginning in 1923.   I have contacted the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation in an effort to preserve this beautiful and unique "form following function" structure which is in immediate risk of being demolished - the natural gas pumping station in the brick building on this site is being demolished as I type.     the tank is located at the corner of Dutchess and North Water Streets in Poughkeepsie, New York and is owned by Central Hudson Gas and Electric.   

With regard to geodesic domes - which could be constructed with similar segments - the jig saw pattern of steel plates assembled into this sphere is unique.   The lay-out pattern is repeated 4 times around the vertical axis of the tank. 

With the rivets detailing the seams, the sphere is extremely cool and organic feeling.

The “stars must be aligning” to encourage me to post my considerations regarding geodesic domes.

Last week I stopped to photograph the dome over the American Society of Materials headquarters in Geauga County (photo below), and

geodesic dome fuller american society materials

two days ago I visited a dome home (at top of this post) in New Hampshire, and today in the local library I noticed an aerial shot of Buckminister Fuller and the ASM dome on the cover of the November, 2008 edition of ARTFORM magazine .

 

 

Geodesic domes occupy a weird niche in architecture. Sean Keller, in the ARTFORUM piece which discusses Fuller and the geodesic dome, writes:

 

The domes rest almost entirely outside of architectural history, neither referencing past forms nor, because of their strict geometry, accommodating further formal development.”

 

The dome at the ASM near Cleveland is the largest geodesic structure in the world and provides ambiance over the American Society of Materials headquarters at 9639 Kinsman Rd, Russell Township. Besides providing ambiance over the ASM office building, the dome’s aluminum frame also provides lightening protection. That’s what is weird about domes – though they are an extremely efficient way to provide structural cover, and despite the fact that they do not require any internal supports (i.e. columns) the spherical design has proved difficult to adapt to widespread human use.

 

Perhaps new generations of “fabric like” stretchable covererings will breath new life into the usefulness of geodesic domes, allowing them to avoid having to fit rigid, leak prone, glazing and paneling, into the many different shapes of the dome.

 

dome with four sided panel segments

 

The chrome dome salt shed above (in Massey, Ontario) uses four sided panels - each horizontal row having the same size panel. This design would appear to have commercial advantages over 6 sided panels.

When you look at the exoskeleton on the marine animal (what species is it?) below, it would appear that Mother Nature (evolution) had the Jump on Mr. Fuller.

hexagonal geodesic exoskeleton

Besides these photos, I have had the following personal experiences with domes –

soccer ball hexagonal seams geodesic

 

Monterey Domes was a company in California operated by Robert Gunther which manufactured dome kits using redwood. Monterey Domes donated a beautiful lathe house for tropical plants to the UC Riverside Botanical Gardens in memory of Mr. Gunther’s parents. With no glazing to worry about leaking, and with plants inside the dome (instead of rectilinear objects) the dome shape for a lathe house is an excellent use both functionally and aesthecitally.

 

Metcut Inc.(out of business in the ‘90’s) was a metal cutting contractor from Watertown, Massachusetts who got the huge job to cut the tubing for the Montreal Dome.

 

Visiting Montreal – Empty after a fire burned off its acrylic skin in 1976, the Dome remained vacant until 1990 when it was re-inhabited by the Montreal Biosphere museum. The 14 years of vacancy says something about the usefulness of domes…

The image below shows (April 09) the lightening rods, and aerial wires connecting the rods, over the top of the acrylic plastic covered dome at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio.  Maybe this involved lightening protection system was installed with the fire at the Montrealo Biosphere in mind.

cleveland metroparks zoo dome cleveland ohio image jeff buster

 

 

There is a website for “Domeheads” and another web site concentrating on the sales of dome homes.

 

June 2011 view of Fuller dome from moving vehicle on bridge over St. Lawrence

 

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I Remember Touring The American Pavillion At Expo '67

American Pavillion at Expo '67

I remember touring the American Pavillion At Expo '67.  It was an astounding geodesic dome.

 I didn't realize that it had burned...

American Pavillion On Fire

Both images c/o Flicker, by way of Google Images...

http://images.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&q=site:flickr.com+%22expo+67%22+American&&sa=N&start=20&ndsp=20 

Buckminster Fuller ignored fire safety

The photos of the Montreal geodesic dome in conflagration demonstrate how easy it is for ego to get in front of common sense. 

Every engineer, including Fuller, knows that public spaces – particularly ones of multiple levels (stories) like the Montreal Expo dome, can’t have surfaces which wildly propagate combustion. 

Yet, the inferno photo is proof that no one, from the geodesic design  engineer to the local public safety officials – paid any attention to the fact that plastics, like the acrylic skin of the Expo dome – are extremely flammable and produce deadly toxic fumes. 

It is just lucky that this fire took place without occupants inside the dome. Otherwise there would have been a situation similar to The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island, where 100 people were killed by plastic smoke in about a minute.

Shame on Bucky…

 1.29.12 Here is a replacement image of the Biosphere  burning - I couldn't find the source of the image to credit.

Monterey Domes

Just would like to clarify a few things on the Monterey Domes comments - I worked there from 1980 to 1985, and happen to be one of the two guys that installed the lathe dome at the botanic gardens.

That dome was the *ONLY* dome made of redwood/cedar (IIRC the frame was redwood, the lathe was cedar) - treated with sealer (thompsons) to extend the life. I've not been there in years, but I've always wondered if it was still standing.

The vast majority of the domes were actually good old douglas fir (#1 grade) - 2x4 for the majority, 2x6 for those places that either had a high snow load, or the owner wanted better insulation. We did make one custom dome that used 4x6 for the top pentagon - this was getting built in northern alaska - it was the only way we could meet the snow load. 

ffr2822 - Monterey Domes Gunther lathe green house - very cool

gunther memorial geodesic lathe green house university california riverside monterey domes

This is an image of the Gunther geodesic lathe green house from February of 2009.  The structure now has many mature plants inside, and there is a nice bench to sit on and contemplate.

One of the most spectacular and satisfying aspects of the internet is the internet's force in connecting   people who are intersted in, or have been involved in,  some particular topic.

Realneo user ffr2822 knows more about this lathe house than anyone - thanks for helping build this one of a kind structure.

The dome appeared to be in very good condition.  I have some other images I will post soon.

Thanks very much for describing the construction and the types of wood used.

best, jeffb


 

 

dome think

"The 14 years of vacancy says something about the usefulness of domes… "

Well that may be or it could be commentary on square thinking in mankind.

An aside: why do realneo posts these days look like late 20th century poetry?

aside response

Linebreaks (when in Rich-text mode) will be formatted as such.

It looks like Jeff used Word to write his comment -- at some point in the process, he or Word put in breaks where there shouldn't be...

Two of my brothers own dome

Two of my brothers own dome homes.  One is in Parma on Marlborough; the other is in Rock Creek, OH, in Astabula.  They built them.  I don't know where they got the plans.  But they have lived in them for many years.  They do look different when compared to the other homes on their streets. 

neo's got domes, wow!

I like geodesic domes, but we are programmed for square living. I would be in such awe of the space I probably wouldn't leave the bubble. A lot of this areas gov's got that Western Reserve thing they are riding shotgun over. How did your bros get past that?

mojonson, I don't know what

mojonson,

I don't know what you mean by "that Western Reserve thing" but I don't recall them having any problems.   I could ask them but I wouldn't know what exactly to ask because I seem to be missing some information.  I didn't know there would be any restrictions on the shape of a home.  But, there are a lot of things I don't know.  lol