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What is a Dymaxion House?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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The Dymaxion house was an efficient, mass-producible dwelling designed by visionary architect Buckminster Fuller. Although only two prototype designs were ever made in the early 1940s, the house is considered by many to be a source of inspiration for sensible, energy-efficient design. Despite critics put off by the factory-produced feel of the Dymaxion house, it remains a landmark in design today, possibly to be rediscovered in an age of sustainable living ideals.

Buckminster Fuller seems like a man charged with creating human ideas of futuristic design. Improving on the work of a German architect, he created the geodesic dome, which quickly became popular for its structural capabilities and virtually limitless size. Fuller was an architect with an eye for function as well as form, after a close call with suicidal depression left him convinced he must do some good for the world. Fuller’s plans for the Dymaxion house were nothing short of revolutionary, and unfortunately considered by too many to be too new for the open market.

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The Dymaxion house was constructed mostly of aluminum, giving it the appearance of a circular diner or metal carousel. The interior was approximately 1100 ft (335 m,) meant to hold a family of no more than four people. The house was supported by a single, central, stainless steel column that held the entire structure together. The floors and ceiling radiated out from the column like spokes on a wheel, holding the house together by tension support. The lack of interior reinforcement served to make the Dymaxion house both safer in the event of some disasters, and less wasteful in building materials.

To preserve water, Fuller developed an ingenious filtration system that significantly reduced water use. Some models of the house show a mist or fog shower that would provide sufficient water but reduce the amount needed for a shower or bath. The house also featured a greywater filtration system, to reuse as much as possible.

The house was practical for the American economy in the aftermath of the two World Wars, when aircraft building factories lay dormant. The production of the Dymaxion house would have been completely factory based, and the use of aluminum as the main material would have required little adaptation of equipment in the former military factories. Yet the idea never caught on, despite serious interest in some quarters.

Only two prototypes of the Dymaxion house were ever built, and those were modified from Fuller’s design slightly. The prototypes were purchased by wealthy investor William Graham in the 1940s, who used them to construct a hybridized version that was attached to his family home. In 1991, the hybrid was donated to the Henry Ford Museum, who spent a decade carefully restoring the house to original specifications. The house is now on display at the museum, and is featured in an online exhibit.

It isn’t clear why Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion house failed. The efficiency, function and ease of construction seemed to suggest the type of futuristic utopia loved by Americans in the post World War II years. Yet the house still serves as a model for architectural and design students, both as an example of completely outside-the-box thinking, and as an ideal of efficient design.

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anon23692
Post 1

Does any company prefab the Dymaxion House these days ? Or do construction plans exist to possibly make it yourself ? I would appreciate any information, thank you.

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