A Look at at the Focus Conference on Geodesic Domes

Cass Wester reported on the Focus: Shelters For Mankind Conference of 1972.

| November/December 1972

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    The registration dome for the Focus Conference gave away the conference's preference.
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    One of many geodesic domes on display at the Focus conference.

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Three and one half hours out of Cleveland on a United jet, I simultaneously kissed the sun goodnight and the moon hello . . . and dropped through the smog to land in Los Angeles. I was on my way — with a couple boxes of MOTHER in hand — to attend the FOCUS: SHELTERS FOR MANKIND Conference at California State University from September 22 to 24, 1972.

A constant flow of students, designers and interested folks made their way to the FOCUS 50-foot-diameter, white, geodesic dome to register during the three-day event. That hemispheric registration building should have been a tip-off, though, because — almost from the beginning of the conference — it was apparent that the gathering's FOCUS was on domes. Now there's nothing primarily wrong with such structures . . . but we certainly limit the scope of any discussion about shelters for mankind when we restrict our attention almost entirely to geodesics.

It was already a relief, then, to attend Bob Easton's slide show on opening day. Bob—co-author, as you may know, of DOMEBOOKS I and II — is an independent builder whose one-time burning interest in domes seems to be rapidly turning into a profound respect for more conventional fabrication approaches. During his show, Bob emphasized his developing interest in natural construction materials chosen and used "with respect to the supply on hand and what we are humanly capable of replacing". Later during the conference, Easton told me about his work with adobe bricks and promised that he'll keep us informed about this, his latest project.

At another point in the conference, Lloyd Kahn — the second half of the team who wrote DOMEBOOKS I and II — inspired lively debates and spirited exchanges with his audience when, if anything, he carried Easton's new line of thought even further. Kahn, whose name is almost synonymous with domes, has been reevaluating the structures over the years and now envisions their use mainly as auditoriums and galleries. More power to him.

Lloyd's public announcement of his expanding interest in natural materials and traditional building designs fabricated with human hands left many of his old followers bewildered . . . but Kahn's presentation fit the theme of SHELTERS FOR MANKIND better, possibly, than the remarks presented by any other speaker at the conference.

One other really noteworthy contrast to the dome thinking in which FOCUS was steeped was the speech by Paolo Soleri. Soleri, of course, is the slight Italian designer who dreams such monumental visions of what the future cities of the world might be. Whether or not you agree with Solerie's megastructure and arcology philosophy, you have to be impressed by his Cosanti Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona where he practices his theories.


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