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  3. AD Classics: The Dymaxion House / Buckminster Fuller

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
Bucky and the Dymaxion © Bettmann/Corbis via

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.

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...

via model via © MoMA © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via +18

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

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.

© MoMA
© MoMA

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

“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]

model via
model via

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
© The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, via

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
Bucky and the Dymaxion © Bettmann/Corbis via

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

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Cite: Gili Merin. "AD Classics: The Dymaxion House / Buckminster Fuller" 12 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Bill Fischel · January 03, 2014

One major problem with this house is that it does not lend itself to repair and upgrading by do-it-yourself homeowners. The cheap, post WWII housing built by William Levitt and others had the sustainability advantage of being upgradable by men and women who knew how to handle a hammer and saw.

Fernando Felix · November 21, 2013

Although non-existing, Dymexion house could be argued as one of the most influential architectural prototype that ever was. Fuller’s philosophy about designing dwelling, and architecture in general, in parity of contemporary development of transportation or mobility has yielded resounding similarities to that of many famed modernist such as Corbusier and Otto Wagner. The Dymexion house was designed to improve quality of dwelling through prefabrication of self sustaining house with the ability to function in any location, a rather similar concept that architects today has been trying to develop.

Daniel Frum · November 18, 2013

Many structures have been argued as ‘ahead of their time’, but the Dymaxion house can almost objectively claim that title. Fuller integrated a greywater system, a waterless toilet, a passive cooling system, and wind turbines into one of the first concepts of a modern net-zero energy building. Almost a century later, an architectural priority on sustainability and energy efficiency provides these ideas with not only a continued relevance, but an elevated sense of esteem.

Chris Siminski · July 16, 2013

Unfortunately Buckminster Fuller, just like many of the great architects of the late 19th century and the early-mid 20th century were too advanced in their design ideas for the time period for which they were apart of. The Dymaxion house was a piece of architectural and engineering beauty, and unfortunately was misunderstood by the masses. I had the privilege of being in one of these home at The Henry Ford Museum in downtown Detroit, and it is both structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. If you want a home that functions as per its design, utilizes all negative space, and can withstand natural conditions then this would be the home for you.

Andy · October 13, 2014 01:04 PM

It wasn't "the masses" that "misunderstood it," the masses were crazy about it. It was Bucky Fuller who was too much of a perfectionist to let the masses play with it!


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