Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Dymaxion House – Buckminster Fuller

buckminster-200If you wanted to find the very antithesis of the house I posted last night, you’d only have to go across one coast and about two decades.

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, the first of which was produced in 1929, is the very expression of the industrialised house.  It was intended as a prototype, suggesting the industrialised house that modern America could make – complete with prefabricated bathrooms, laundries and kitchens.

The Dymaxion structure (the name combines the words dynamic, maximum, and tension) was based around a central pole which contained heating, cooling, sewage, and water subsystems. The rooms branched out in a hexagonal shape from that pole, from which they were suspended by airplane wire.

4052241640_a398edb1c9    “[The house] was heated and cooled by natural means, it 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 – and costing about $40,000.00…
4052241182_cdda26172a     “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 [the Wichita, Kansas prototype] by only a few hundred yards. And the Dymaxion only weighs about 3000 pounds versus the 150 tons of an average home!”

When Fuller offered the prototype to the American Institute of Architects, they rejected it, saying that they opposed "any kind of house designs that are manufactured like peas-in-a-pod."*

The colour pictures show the prototype now located in the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.  The painted “scenery” is intended to convey a sense of how a house in location might have felt.  I think.



  1. Now that is very interesting. Food for thought.


  2. US$40,000! I wonder what it would cost to build something like this now.


  3. This is just awful. Its top priority is convenience as allowed by the lords of geometry. The design muse is the ideal of a centralised sewage system! Go have your Yugo.

    Now that Californian bungalow... that's for humans!

  4. @Sam. Quite agree.

    I don't think Bucky ever read Frank LW's 'Art & Craft of the Machine.' Sadly.

    So that's not to say good industrialised housing can't be done. Just hasn't been yet.

    @LGM: From memory, the US$40,000 tag was costed to include the capital to produce the house. Marginal cost of each subsequent house would presumably have been much smaller.

  5. It looks like Mr Fuller has designed the living quarters of the Starship Enterprise.

  6. PC


    Now that is good. I think that has to be the fundamental significance of the house.


    Sam P

    The point is that it's a "living machine" in the sense that a car is a "travelling machine". That approach makes it possible to build houses for very low cost.

    Now as far as aesthetics are concerned- that's why we hire a real good architect (an Objectivist) who understands the goals of the whole scheme. Then it should be possible to achieve elegance AND low cost. That would be a high quality house.



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