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AD Classics: The Dymaxion House / Buckminster Fuller

AD Classics: The Dymaxion House / Buckminster Fuller
AD Classics: The Dymaxion House / Buckminster Fuller, Bucky and the Dymaxion © Bettmann/Corbis via britannica.com
Bucky and the Dymaxion © Bettmann/Corbis via britannica.com

The Dymaxion House was a futuristic dwelling invented by the architect and practical philosopher R. Buckminister Fuller - who would have turned 118 today. The word “Dymaxion,” which combines the words dynamic, maximum and tension, was coined (among many others) by Fuller himself.

via www.trumanlibrary.org model via scene.org © MoMA © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via myipamm.net +18

© The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via rhonalpes-tourism.com
© The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via rhonalpes-tourism.com

In 1920 Fuller wished to build a sustainable autonomous single family dwelling, the living machine of the future. Although never built, the Dymaxion's design displayed forward-thinking and influential innovations in prefabrication and sustainability. Not only would the house have been exemplary in its self-sufficiency, but it also could have been mass-produced, flat-packaged and shipped throughout the world.

More on this revolutionary design after the break...

© MoMA
© MoMA

The 100 sqm hexagonal house was an earthquake and storm resistant structure, supported by a central pole from which cables would be suspended, allowing the outer walls to be non-bearing. By grouping all permanent utilities in the central pole, and letting the rest of the interior space remain modular, Fuller created a flexible plan that would allow tenants to transform the space according to their needs. The design also shows wind turbines on the roof and an extensive system of cisterns to collect and recycle water. For the bathing unit Fuller patented the “Dymaxion Bathroom” - a shower that required only one cup of hot water, and a toilet that consumed no water at all.

The house was to be constructed from aluminum due to the material's great strength, low weight, and minimum maintenance; as Fuller explained:

model via scene.org
model via scene.org

“that is the Dymaxion principle of doing ever more with ever less weight, time, and ergs per each given level of functional performance. With an average recycling rate for all metals of 22 years, and with comparable design improvements in performance per pound, ephemeralization means that ever more people are being served at ever higher standards with the same old materials” [1]

The Dymaxion was abandoned by Fuller until 1944, when the post-War housing shortage urged Fuller to revisit his previous idea of mass production of residential units. To make the house a reality, Fuller soon signed a two year research contract with Beech Aircraft industries, who held an abundance of aluminum in the aftermath of World War II. In 1946 Fuller completed two prototypes: the Barwise prototype and the Danbury prototype, though neither were assembled nor mass produced, mainly due to Fuller’s unwillingness to compromise.

© The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via myipamm.net
© The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via myipamm.net

In 1948 William Graham, a former investor in the project, purchased and combined both prototypes and created the “Wichita House,” which carried a refined vision of the original Dymaxion: the hexagon was transformed into a smooth circle, and the building was set only a few inches above the ground (rather than fully suspended, as the Dymaxion would have been). Aside from the patented Dymaxion bathroom, none of the original housing elements were included in the Wichita House.

Bucky and the Dymaxion © Bettmann/Corbis via britannica.com
Bucky and the Dymaxion © Bettmann/Corbis via britannica.com

Probably prematurely abandoned, the Dymaxion house could have been a great success if brought to its full potential, providing solutions for the post-war shortage of housing due to its incorporation of new materials, implementation of sustainable technologies, and its ease of assembly and mass-production. In April 1946, Fortune magazine suggested that: “the ‘dwelling machine’ was likely to produce greater social consequences than the introduction of the automobile”. Unfortunately, the Dymaxion, would never be given that chance. However, Buckminster Fuller’s principles of sustainability and his “more with less” philosophy continue to be vastly influential in the field of sustainable design today.

[1] R. Buckminster fuller: Synergetics, Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking

Cite: Igor Fracalossi. "AD Classics: The Dymaxion House / Buckminster Fuller" 12 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/401528/ad-classics-the-dymaxion-house-buckminster-fuller/>