American Masters Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud

Dymaxion Houses
by J. Baldwin

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Bucky designed a home (qt movie, 1mb) that was heated and cooled by natural means, that made its own power, was earthquake and storm-proof, and made of permanent, engineered materials that required no periodic painting, reroofing, or other maintenance. You could easily change the floor plan as required - squeezing the bedrooms to make the living room bigger for a party, for instance.

Downdraft ventilation drew dust to the baseboards and through filters, greatly reducing the need to vacuum and dust. O-Volving Shelves (qt movie, 2.3mb) required no bending; rotating closets brought the clothes to you. The Dymaxion House was to be leased, or priced like an automobile (qt movie, 2.2mb), to be paid off in five years. All this would be possible now if houses were engineered, mass-produced, and sold like cars. $40,000.00 sounds about right.

In 1946, Bucky actually built one in Wichita. I had the honor to lead a bunch of volunteers that took it apart in 1992. It was mostly intact despite being abandoned (except for the incumbent herd of insolent, astoundingly filthy raccoons) for several decades. The 747 First-Class ambience was faded and smelly, but you could still sense the elegance of a living room with a 33-foot window.

The Dymaxion's round shape (qt movie, 2.2mb) minimized heat loss and the amount of materials needed, while bestowing the strength to successfully fend off a 1964 tornado that missed by only a few hundred yards. And the Dymaxion only weighs about 3000 pounds versus the 150 tons of an average home!

In 1998, you'll be able to see the restored Dymaxion House at the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. A modern Dymaxion could bring house design and construction out of the 18th century for the first time.