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Geodesic Dome “Weatherbreak”

Buckminster Fuller and Jeffrey Lindsay, 1951

Tubular aluminum and stainless steel 

Description: Pieces of a geodesic dome, rods and connectors, hang in a display case. A black and white photo of the dome fully assembled sits behind the dome pieces. 

North America’s First Geodesic Dome

The geodesic dome is a marvel of engineering. It is light but extremely strong and requires about 30 percent less energy to heat or cool than a conventional building. 

Popularized by American architect R. Buckminster Fuller, geodesic domes can be constructed from a kit of standard parts, almost like a giant toy. Fuller saw the resulting efficient, lightweight construction as a model for future architecture: doing more with less. They never really became mainstream, but caught on with counterculture groups in the 1960s and have been constructed around the world, including – famously – at Walt Disney’s EPCOT, the Experimental City Of Tomorrow.

Seen here are elements of “Weatherbreak,” the first full-scale geodesic dome ever built in North America. It was designed and constructed near Montreal by Jeffrey Lindsay, one of Fuller’s disciples, and later rebuilt in the Hollywood Hills. This is the first time any of its parts have been displayed to the public since coming to the Smithsonian. When fully assembled it measures 49 feet in diameter.

Photo of Geodesic Dome

Description, Image 1: A black and white photo of a dome made out of triangles. The rods and connectors are made of aluminum. There are aluminum sticks poking out of the entire structure of the dome. It is in a snowy landscape. 

Description, Image 2: A black and white photo of a dome made out of triangles. The viewer can see in and through the dome. It is a zoomed in photo of the dome. There are five individuals climbing on the dome.

Credit: Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Photo credit: Courtesy of Canadian Architectural Archives, Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

R. Buckminster Fuller Futurist Portrait

Architect and Inventor

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

—R. Buckminster Fuller

Description: A portrait of R. Buckminster Fuller. The portrait is digitally created based on a photograph. It is multicolored and made up of geodesic domes, which is a dome made up of triangles. Buckminster Fuller is an elderly man with light skin. He has short white hair with a receded hairline. He wears glasses and a suit and tie. The back of the banner is a repeating pattern of a geodesic dome on a brown background. 

If you had to put someone’s photo next to the word “futurist” in the dictionary, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) would be a great choice. An inventive and counterintuitive thinker, Fuller held audiences spellbound with his ideas. In 1975, he gave a lecture series called “Everything I Know” that lasted 42 hours over a period of two weeks. By the end it seemed like he was just getting started. 

Over the course of his career Fuller wrote numerous books, invented hyper-efficient vehicles, and popularized new forms of architecture, including the geodesic dome. He described our planet as “Spaceship Earth,” hurtling through space, and humans as astronauts who had to work together to keep the ship operational.

Credit: This portrait was made by artist Nettrice Gaskins using Deep Dream Generator, a computer vision program that uses artificial intelligence to generate new and complex images.