For all of you self proclaimed home improvement gurus out there the name Buckminster Fuller either pulls up visions of Disney’s famed geodesic dome, known to all as the Epcot Center dome, or maybe his name leaves your mind completely blank. Either way your mind chooses to go, I bet you, like Doc, have never heard of the Dymaxion House.
I, like many scholars of the home improvement realm, knew full well about the housing crunch that occurred when our soldiers marched back from war in the late 1940s. I also knew that what greeted them were quickly and often poorly constructed ramblers, ranches and split level ranches as well as a few capes and Dutch Colonials. Furthermore, I knew, almost too well, about Frank Lloyd Wright and his plethora of futuristic homes such as Falling Water. However, what I found out on Mysteries At The Museum, the other night left me flabbergasted.
You see, Buckminster Fuller had his very own ideas of what the future should hold for our soldiers in need of quick and cheap housing. His idea, known simply as the Dymaxion House, was basically a modular home that looked as if it had flown here from outer space. Although on the ugly side, its ease of construction, ultra modern conveniences and safety features won over the hearts of some backers who were willing to pay to get this Airstream like home off of the ground. However, Fuller was not satisfied with the prototype, which he had first conceived in 1929. His unwillingness to continue with actual production of the real Dymaxion House, until he fixed the prototype to his satisfaction, caused his backers to abandon him and his amazing invention. Sadly, that is when the soldiers came home and that is when all those quick built ramblers and the such were built across America. Even more disturbing is the fact that Fuller himself seemed to have fallen away into the dusty pages of history. I know this to be true as he isn’t a visionary who is often discussed within design school’s hallowed halls.
So what in particular makes the Dymaxion House so special and so important to home improvement experts, besides its almost too ugly to look at design? That has to be the easiest question to answer. You see, the Dymaxion House was built with environmentally friendly and ergonomically correct devices in it that we ourselves have yet to incorporate into mainstream construction. One such feature was the rain collecting roof that whisked rain water down through an interior gutter system and then into a cistern. The cistern in turn provided the water for the home. This water then went through a special shower system designed to provide a spectacular shower with minimal water usage. The water then ran from the laundry, shower and sinks into a grey water collection area and was recycled for reuse. With a water system like that who needs a town water bill ever again?! The dome shape of the home itself was designed with a special vent at the top that helped air flow around the interior of the structure for more efficient heating and cooling. The shell of the home was made of heavy duty aluminum which is known to stand up to just about anything, except ocean water of course. The UFO shape of the home also lent itself to withstanding high winds. Another great feature was the raised bathtub that took two steps up to get into but provided for excellent ergonomical comfort when bathing a small child or dog. The toilet, after you were done doing your business, neatly packaged your waste and disposed of it into a compost receptacle. Now that is service!
So how can you get a look at this amazing home of the future that actually had no future? If you live in the Michigan area you can visit the Henry Ford Museum for a chance to walk around the actual prototype. If you are unfortunate, like Doc, to live too far away from the museum, then you can check it out athttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dymaxion_house.jpg . This and the show, Mysteries At The Museum, are where all of my knowledge of the Dymaxion House came from.