March 12, 1971 was an historic day for grassroots dome builders because on that date–in a crowded lecture hail in New York City–a spark was passers directly from Buckminster Fuller to a couple of fellows who are now determined to put the secrets of geodesics into the hands (and heads) of anyone who wants them.
Last March 12th, Bucky Fuller–architect, designer, engineer, inventor, mathematician, philosopher, poet, thinker and father of the geodesic dome–was giving one of his great visionary talks in which he touched on the advantages of geodesic domes over conventional cubical structures.
“Domes can be part of the industrialization of the housing industry . . . part of the conversion of world weaponry to livingry systems,” Fuller said. “These spherical structures made of triangles are strong, light, simple, beautiful, graceful, and especially suited to the emerging new life styles. They can be easily adapted to the changing needs of their occupants and they’re generated from a structural system so simple that almost anyone can build or dismantle and move with his own home. Domes give you more for less: more volume and floor area for less material and much less expense. In addition, the repeated triangular component sections lend themselves almost ideally to mass production . . . making the world’s strongest and lightest housing also one of the least expensive.”
Seated in the front of the audience were W.R. Wendel (24, and known by most of his friends simply as Wendel) and Wes Thomas, 37. For several months prior to the lecture, Wendel and Wes had been considering the construction of inexpensive geodesic houses for themselves on Long Island . . . and they were completely entranced by Fuller’s words.
And then Bucky turned to pick up a model icosahedron (a very stable twenty-sided structure made from equi lateral triangles) . . . and the model collapsed in his hands.
This was ridiculous! Fuller’s domes have weathered the worse Arctic storms and withstood hurricanes and his geodesic theories have been relatively well-known for over twenty years . . . and still there was no dependable kit from which to construct models of even the most basic geometr’ forms . . . let alone Fuller’s structures.
Later that night, Wes and Wendel began to brainstorm an inexpensive model kit specifically designed for geodesic dome experiments. After 48 hours and little sleep the two enthusiasts had gone through steel tube., aluminum tubes, aluminum strips, steel wire, plastic tubes, coffee and cocktail stirrers, tongue depressors, nuts and bolts, electrical terminals, wooden balls, styrofoam balls, aluminum circles, silly putty and marshmallows. Finally they hit a combination that worked.
Another three weeks of refinement and hassling out the problems of plastic injection molding found Wes and Wendel ready to market a package consisting of 100 unique (patent pending) five and six spoke tension-stress plastic hub units and 270 precut, color-coded 3/16″-diameter struts. By following the instructions that accompanies this DOME EAST KIT, the most fumble-fingered dome beginner can quickly and easily build tetrahedrons, octrahedrons, icosahedrons and two frequency alternate and three frequency alternate spheres.
The more serious dome enthusiast will find the DOME EAST KIT valuable for determining the optimum size (3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 7/8; zenith edge, face or vertex, and windows, doors or skylights of a particular full-size dome. The DOME EAST instruction book even includes directions for making a gigantic and inexpensive 15-foot diameter geodesic dome model from the little teenie plastic hubs included in the kit.
Fantastic! But are Wendel and Wes satisfied? Of course not. They’re already developing prefabricated geodesic homes, pool covers, greenhouses, play structures, utility sheds and other buildings which they’ll start to market this summer.