Posts tagged with "Buckminster Fuller":

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Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes closed indefinitely amid safety concerns

The Mitchell Park Domes have been an iconic and well-loved part of the Milwaukee skyline for several generations.  As of February 9th, the Domes are closed to the public amidst reports of falling concrete, and their future is unknown. Built in stages between 1959 and 1967, the three domes were designed by local architect Donald Grieb, who took inspiration from a contemporary architect and engineer, Buckminster Fuller. Fuller’s office declined to partner with Grieb, noting that they did not want to alter the design of the structures they were working on. At the Mitchell Domes, Grieb made two important innovations to typical geodesic domes of the period. First, they are considered to be the first conoidal glass domes ever built – meaning they have an elongated vertical axis (140 feet in diameter and 85 feet high), making them proportionally taller than typical half-spherical domes. Second, the substructure was made of reinforced precast concrete – as opposed to bare steel or aluminum components. The domes were built in the age some important technological advancements in concrete, and one in which the likes of Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen were creating innovative forms out of the material. The structural ribbing consists of cast on site steel reinforced concrete units. These members are welded to steel plates, also encased in concrete, which give a monolithic appearance from the inside. Over the top of each dome is a triangulated aluminum and glass skin, connected to the concrete frame by stainless steel hubs. One disadvantage of this uninsulated concrete structure is its susceptibility to water. Water working its way into cracks in concrete, corroding its steel reinforcement, has caused expansion and spalling. The glass skin on each Dome is designed to be watertight and has an internal drainage system for condensation, yet with age water has found its way into any building – through cracks in the glass and clogged drains. The Tropical Dome maintains 80 degrees and 85 percent humidity, putting the concrete at risk from the beginning. Since 1994, the domes have undergone numerous repairs and renovations. In 2008 a major renovation involved remodeling the lobby, replacement of hundreds of cracked glass panels, and the addition internal lighting that gave the structures a more defining presence at nighttime. Milwaukee County, the owner of the domes, spent $200,000 on concrete repairs in the Tropical dome between 2013 and 2014, and in 2015 had flagged another $500,000 for a structural study and to install protective nets.  Local engineering consulting firm GRAEF USA was hired to analyze the existing structure and propose a fix. The severity of the crumbling concrete led to the closing of the Arid Dome on January 28th. A week later, the County made the decision to close the domes indefinitely, until short term and long term solutions can be evaluated. According to County Executive Chris Abele, the long term recommendation is for a complete reconstruction of the three domes, at an estimated cost between $65–75 Million. The proposed short term fix involves wrapping thousands of concrete members to contain spalled concrete, which has been reported to be as large as a man’s hand. Milwaukee County has reason to take major precautions with its infrastructure. In 2010, a massive concrete slab fell from the entrance to the County-owned O’Donnell parking structure, killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring two others. The Milwaukee County Board has announced a Public Hearing on February 24th to discuss the future of the domes. In the meantime, the issue was quick to become politicized in the upcoming race for County Executive, as Chris Abele’s challenger blames him for not investing in the city’s public infrastructure.
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Goetz Brings Bucky Back

Fly's Eye Dome reproduction applies contemporary tools and materials to 1970s concept.

Thirty years after R. Buckminster Fuller's death, the visionary inventor and architect's Fly's Eye Dome has been reborn in Miami. Unveiled during Art Basel Miami Beach 2014, the replica dome, designed and fabricated by Goetz Composites in cooperation with the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI), pays tribute to Fuller both aesthetically and technologically. Constructed using contemporary materials and digital design tools, the new 24-foot Fly's Eye Dome (which serves as the pedestrian entrance to a parking garage in the Miami Design District) is yet further evidence that the creator of the geodesic dome was ahead of his time. BFI commissioned Goetz based on the firm's prior work restoring the original Fly's Eye Dome. At the end of that process, they created a 3D scan of the prototype for BFI's records. The digital files were the jumping-off point for the reproduction, for which ConForm Lab's Seth Wiseman provided critical design assistance, as did Daniel Reiser of DR Design. Wiseman produced a parametric model of the dome's truncations in Grasshopper, then compared his model to the 3D scan of the original to make sure the geometries matched. A 2012 reproduction of the Fly's Eye Dome, the MGM Butterfly Pavilion in Macau, China, constituted a practice round of sorts. "For Macau, we had a tight timeline: from the algorithm to shipment [we had] six weeks," said Wiseman. "We were able to review and tweak the geometry for the Miami dome—to refine it and make it more consistent with the original prototype."
  • Fabricator Goetz Composites
  • Designers R. Buckminster Fuller (prototype), Goetz Composites, Seth Wiseman, DR Design
  • Location Miami, Florida
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material fiberglass, epoxy, polycarbonate lenses, metal fasteners
  • Process 3D scanning, Grasshopper, CNC milling, infusing, gluing, fastening
Goetz, Reiser, and Wiseman introduced a few crucial changes into the Miami reproduction. "Bucky's original intent and concept was well-placed, but it suffered in execution," observed Wiseman. Fuller's prototype used a shingle system of overlapping truncations to shed water. As a result, the geometry was complicated. "The problem for us, from the manufacturing standpoint, is that it required four different molds," said Wiseman. "Though technology allows us to produce something of this complexity fairly easily, it's cost-prohibitive unless we're doing something on a production scale." The design team eliminated the shingle system, instead using a standard two-legged flange and coupler attachment to connect adjacent truncations on the dome's interior. The attachments are both mechanically fastened—for fidelity to Fuller's vision—and epoxy fitted—to meet engineering requirements. "If we were to do a third iteration, our hope is to develop joinery to eliminate the fasteners, for both assembly and aesthetic reasons," said Wiseman. In keeping with Fuller's commitment to all things cutting-edge, Goetz fabricated the reproduction using 21st-century materials and methods. They selected a PRO-SET epoxy originally developed for use on Coast Guard vessels to stand up to the South Florida weather, and replaced the glass domes with polycarbonate lenses sourced by Wasco and detailed with help from 3M. The composite forms were milled on a 5-axis CNC machine using EPS foam molds. (MouldCAM did some of the CNC cutting.) "The nice part with the Miami dome is that it's the next iteration," said Wiseman. "We've created a fire-retardant, code-compliant structure in the same vein [as the original]. I hate to say it, but I'm kind of excited to see a major storm hit Florida and see how it performs." For Goetz's Chase Hogoboom, the Fly's Eye Dome represents not just the history, but also the future of architecture. "Our background historically has been building state-of-the-art racing sailboats," he said. "We're seeing more and more demand for use of composites in architectural applications, mainly as a result of designers using programs that allow them to design very complicated shapes that need to be structural. And if you look at a Bucky dome, it's a complicated shape that needs to be structural."
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2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semi-Finalists Propose Designs for Humanity

Just as soon as they were announced, deliberation has begun on the nineteen semi-finalists in the 2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. In the spirit of architect Buckminster Fuller’s call for revolutionary scientific design, this international design competition summons participants to innovate sustainable, long-term solutions for “humanity’s most pressing problems.”  This year, the jury has chosen projects that vary in subject and method, re-envisioning current global systems or addressing specific gaps within them. Each submission is judged on adherence to Buckminster Fuller's idea of a "preferred state model," one whose initial conception leads to the most desirable outcome. Criteria include relevant vision, comprehensive strategy, anticipation of future effects, ecological responsibility, feasibility, verifiability, and opportunity for replication in similar conditions.  Projects must also be accurately timed for advantageous change. The semi-finalist projects are: · The Loowatt System · Regenerating Healthy Soils Through Sustainable Sanitation (SOIL) · Mushroom Packaging (Ecovative) · Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science · Bioenergy Value Chain · Healthy Watersheds for Clean Energy · TBS River Regeneration · The Green Chemistry Commitment · International Bridges to Justice Training Resource Center · Voltree Acoustic Early Detection Sensor System · 100,000 Homes Campaign · Eliminating Poverty Through the “Traffic Light” Strategy · Echale a tu Casa · MASS Design Lab: Building Systematic Change · Build Change’s Homeowner-Driven Technical Assistance for Safer Housing · PITCHAfrica: Waterbank Schools · Ento · Olazul: Ecological Shrimp Aquaculture · Agroforestry Reconnecting People and Nature The 2013 entries focus mostly on global topics concerning ecological and condition of life improvements. Holistic solutions that are locally and globally applicable, they range from the introduction of insects into the Western diet to a design laboratory dedicated to socially responsive architecture. The jury will continue deliberation into the next six weeks, concluding with a final, in-person negotiation on October 7th. On this date, they will also host a public discussion at Marfa Dialogues in New York City. See details of each semi-finalist entry here.
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Oklahoma City Developer: Take My Geodesic Dome And Get $100,000!

Oklahoma City just cannot tear down its architectural landmarks fast enough! The city and its developer community have been trying to do away with John Johansen's famous Mummers Theater and now David Box, a local developer, wants to get rid of a unique geodesic dome built in 1958 on Route 66. The developer—who claims among other things that the roof leaks and "you can't just call a normal roofer and say hey we got a geodesic dome here can you fix it"—will give anyone who wants the dome a $100,000 bonus to take it off his property so he can fill it in and "make it safe." The structure was originally built to house a bank and has been declared eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and was designed by local architects Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson, and Roloff based on Buckminster Fuller's patented dome.
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BUCKY ON FILM

There’s something about Buckminster Fuller. Already there have been a spate of documentaries about the eccentric, geodesic dome-loving designer. They include The World of Buckminster Fuller, by Robert Snyder; Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud, by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon; and A Necessary Ruin, by Evan Mather. But now we hear a rumor that filmmaker Steve Reiss is working on a full-length feature about Fuller called “Bucky,” based on a screenplay by Ron Bass. Stay tuned as we get more details. And hold on to your domes.
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Inside the MOMA PS1 Performance Dome

Walking into the large, egg-like structure of the MoMA Ps1 Performance Dome, the German electronic band Kraftwerk's song "Man-Machine" was the perfect accompaniment to the architecture.  Their music represents the kind of progressive attitude towards materials (instruments) and aesthetics (sounds) that is captured perfectly in the temporary structure.  A shiny, white, geodesic dome reminiscent of fellow early techno-fetishist Buckminster Fuller, the space features a super-high-fidelity sound system, 8 screens projecting various computer art, and not much else. It is the ideal pairing of minimalism and technology with Kraftwerk's slick electronic melodies. Completely white on the inside and out, the dome is like a default setting, its tabula-rasa interior serving as the screen for 8 large projections approximately 15 feet off the ground, which are large enough to capture your attention and hold it.  Each performance can start over, with its own tailored set of videos or images. The dome itself is almost blank, the speakers and projectors creating the spatial experience. The depth of sound that these speakers produces creates a voluminous soundscape. The nature of the dome is that there is quite a bit of extra space at the top, so the space is left half filled with the sounds of the performance and accompanying projections. These projections form a ring, and the dome is at its best when the lights are low enough to obscure the actual structure.  The ring of projections then becomes the ceiling, like a spectacular cathedral to performance, or a futuristic, cosmic Pantheon. Instead of a single screen located behind the stage, these eight projections are arranged radially, on one surface, maintaining a spectacular sense of scale, but providing little spatial context.  It is easy to get lost, disoriented.  Everywhere around the circular stage is almost exactly the same, and you are left subject to only two 'architectural' forces: the speakers, and the videos, both of which are arranged in a equidistant, radial pattern. The user is transposed into one of Kraftwerk's visions, into a momentary place where technology becomes the only mediator of space and body and the building disappears. The electronic elements of performance become the spatial experience. The dome is a moving take on the immaterial, ephemeral nature of performance art, and stands as a high-water mark for museums presenting multidisciplinary work.
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Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome Restoration: Goetz Composites

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Fabrication techniques honed for racing boats give the dome new life.

Racing boat builder Goetz Composites has crafted many icons of the sea, including ten America’s Cup boats. Now, the company is trying its hand at architectural icons. Several months ago, Goetz began the restoration of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, one of only three existing prototypes of the prefabricated shelters that the designer patented in 1965. The piece, a 24-foot-wide fiberglass shell with Plexiglas eyes, had been neglected for years and arrived at Goetz’s Bristol, Rhode Island, headquarters with chipped corners, peeling paint, and a patina of mold.
  • Fabricator Goetz Composites
  • Architect Buckminster Fuller
  • Location Miami, Florida
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Fiberglass, steel and aluminum fasteners, linear polyurethane, Plexiglas
  • Process Fiberglass restoration, digital modeling
The dome is owned by Design Miami’s founder Craig Robbins, who restored the piece in anticipation of Art Basel | Miami Beach and Design Miami 2011. After being contacted by Dan Reiser and John Warren, who fabricated the original dome prototypes with Fuller, and the Buckminster Fuller Institute, Goetz was eager to participate in the project. “The challenge was to renew the piece, but keep the spirit and the original intent,” said Eric Goetz, the company’s chief technology officer. A code for assembling the dome had been hand-written on each of its more than 50 fiberglass parts. Goetz’s first step was to engrave the numbers into the fiberglass so nothing would be lost during restoration. The 40-year-old dome is made with fiberglass mat, a randomly oriented fiberglass with a polyester resin that grows more brittle with time. Where corners were missing, Goetz cast pieces with modern fiberglass and shaped it by hand to match the original. The company created laser scans of each finished piece in the matrix. “Now, the Buckminster Fuller Institute has an as-built, 3-D rendering of what each piece looks like in its archives,” said Chase Hogoboom, Goetz’s president. Accurate to the thousandth of a millimeter, the Rhino files could be used to create new CNC-milled molds should the Institute want to reproduce or replicate a piece. Goetz outsourced fabrication of the dome’s sixteen Plexiglas lenses, opting to use rolled aluminum angles to hold them in place instead of fiberglass, the original attachment method. After filling extraneous connection holes that had been drilled over the years, the piece was reassembled with its original attachment scheme using new stainless steel fasteners. Shining with a new coating of linear polyurethane, aircraft-grade paint, the dome will be permanently installed in the Miami Design District. With several large architectural projects already complete, Goetz’s architectural technologies division continues to see an uptick in architects’ interest in composite fabrication. The company is currently working on a rooftop wind vane for the Staten Island Children’s Museum, designed by Marpillero Pollak Architects and slated for completion next year. Perhaps even Fuller’s 50-foot Fly’s Eye prototype will make its way to their shop someday soon.
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Miami on the Make: Adjaye, Fuller, and Foster

Design Miami, the high-design fair that runs with the giant, Art Basel Miami Beach, exhibited two objets d’architecture over the Miami Art Week, and named an architect, David Adjaye, as its 2011 Designer of the Year. Both objets were sculptural pavilions: one is an installation by Adjaye, commissioned for the fair, and the other a restored modernist icon with a utopian agenda. Adjaye’s pavilion Genesis was sited just outside the entrance to the Design Miami fair tent. Constructed with digitally cut timber planks, Genesis is triangular in plan, with an ovoidal interior space that opens to two sides, a smaller window on the third side, and an oculus above. Called by Adjaye “architectural furniture” because it’s not exactly a building, but almost a sculpture meant for human occupation, Genesisbecame a civic amenity for fairgoers, and gave the parking-lot site a feeling of a plaza. The other pavilion was in a vacant lot in the Design District. Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome prototype was an early experiment in inexpensive prefab shelters and environmental, off-the-grid living. The dome, one of only three ever made by Bucky, was restored by Design Miami’s founder, Craig Robins. It was joined by the Fuller’s “omni-directional transport system”, the Dymaxion 4, restored by Lord Norman Foster using his own original Dymaxion as template. The 24 foot-wide prototype dome is a tessellation of hexagonal fiberglass panels with plastic bubble dome windows that seem to radiate from refracted light. It appears strong, but lighter than air, as if a white cloud of geometric purity is floating just along the ground. It was paired with Fuller’s Dymaxion Car as part of the traveling exhibition, “Architecting the Future: Buckminster Fuller and Norman Foster” curated by Lady Elena Foster (Long before he was knighted, Foster worked with Fuller.) The dome will be permanently installed in Miami’s Design District, in a plaza being developed by Robins. The Miami fairs have always been cross-disciplinary, beginning in the early years with the spontaneous creation of the “Miami model”: part serious fair, part social event, part bacchanalian party, part educational experience, and part clearing house for other creative media. Design Miami showed how naturally design-as-art can fit into this maelstrom. Perhaps architecture, although it has always played a cameo role during Basel week, will move in the same direction.
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Blue Ventures Takes Buckminster Fuller Prize

The conservation group Blue Ventures won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge in a ceremony at the CUNY Graduate Center on Friday night. The group took home the $100,000 prize, edging out FrontlineSMS, Rainforest Foundation UK, and TARA Ashkar+. The project caught the attention of the judges for its work with impoverished communities along the coast of Madagascar. To solve the problem of overfishing and biodiversity, the group delved into the root causes on land, such as overpopulation and a lack of birth control (an increase in population exacerbates overfishing).  The strategy was to stabilize the population and shift toward alternative economic resources. Conservation in the water depends heavily on human behavior on land. Encompassing 25 fishing villages along the more than 200 miles of Madagascar coast, the project spurred one of the strongest Marine Protected Areas in the region. By providing the locals with knowledge on subsistence fishing, the group helped shift the traditional ways the communities have interacted with the ocean for generations. The techniques gave the marine environment, particularly the fish and coral reef, a chance to rebound. While the fish were regaining their population, back on land the opposite was needed. Empowering the women in the community became key. Blue Ventures counseled the women on family planning, which the group sees as a basic human right.

Work of Blue Ventures in Madagascar from Richard Scrase on Vimeo.

Blue Ventures Family Planning Project from Robur TV on Vimeo.

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Bucky Comes to Town

If you couldn't make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it's still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller's Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump.

Rise of the Archi-doc

Archi-docs (TM) seem to have become an ever-more popular film form, from My Architect to Sketches of Frank Gehry and Snakebit. Starting tonight, the National Buildings Museum in D.C. is hosting an entire film festival dedicated to the archi-doc. The festivities kick off tonight with a screening of Moving Midway, about one relatives plans to move the family's plantation home away from the sprawl encompassing it while at the same time selling the land to developers while others—including some former slaves—try to stop the move. On Monday, there is the debut of A Necessary Ruin, the work of LA-based filmmaker Evan Mather about the destruction of Fuller's Union Tank Car Dome, the largest free-span structure in the world at the time of its completion in 1958 with a diameter of 384 feet (trailer above). And a week from tonight, the festival closes with a screening of Megamall, which is about the rise of the film's titular developments across the country, with a particular focus on the Palisades Center in West Nyack. And before each film, a different short will be shown. Meanwhile, the fest has been excepting videos of "great green spaces," which you can watch on Vimeo or even submit your own.