All Eyes on Bentonville

Buckminster Fuller’s 50-foot “Fly’s Eye” is coming to Crystal Bridges

Design Midwest
3D computer rendering of Buckminster’s Fly’s Eye Dome as it will appear on the North Lawn at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. View from Early 20th Century Gallery Bridge. (Courtesy Wilfredo Lee, AP)
3D computer rendering of Buckminster’s Fly’s Eye Dome as it will appear on the North Lawn at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. View from Early 20th Century Gallery Bridge. (Courtesy Wilfredo Lee, AP)

This summer, a 50-foot-wide 61-eye version of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome will be moved to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Known for his geodesic conceptions, Fuller designed the Fly’s Eye Dome in 1965 and produced three patented domes of different sizes by 1983. The 50-foot Monohex dome, made from glass and fiberglass, was the largest of the trio (the others spanned 12 feet and 24 feet in diameter by comparison) and was last exhibited at the Festival International d’Art in Toulouse, France, in 2013.

At the Crystal Bridges museum, the dome will sit on a lawn alongside a 1950s residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Here, the structure will be nestled among trees and greenery as part of a sculpture garden close to a new entrance the museum is constructing. Fuller based his design on the eye of a fly and had visions of the geodesic design transforming the way we approach housing. The idea though never took off and now remains as a symbol of the utopian approach to design that typified the era.

R. Buckminster Fuller, Fly’s Eye Dome, 1961, fabricated ca. 1980. Fiberglass-reinforced polyester
38 x 50 x 50 feet. (Courtesy of Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller)

“It is shocking and people are going to go, ‘What is that?'” said Curatorial Assistant at Crystal Bridges, Dylan Turk speaking to the AP. “Hopefully they’ll go out there and want to know what it is.” The dome features 61 “oculi” that tessellate among the mostly triangular geodesic framework.

“We have an actual piece of paper where he had a picture of a fly that he had found in a newspaper in the ’60s,” Turk continued. “He saw it and thought, ‘The structure of this fly’s eye could become one of my type of domes.’ He was literally looking at a fly’s eye.” Turk added that Fuller “wanted to use the lightest materials possible because it costs the least to ship and uses less energy to build… Fiberglass is strong and cheap.” The dome will be installed in the summer of 2017.

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