At long last, the house that Bucky
built is getting the preservation overhaul that it deserves.
Erected in 1960 in just seven short hours using 60 triangular wooden panels, the dome-shaped digs
in Carbondale, Ill. — the world’s first
geodesic dome home — served as the private residence of the late futurist, inventor, architect, poet, cosmologist, philosopher, and Mensa member extraordinaire R. Buckminster Fuller
and his wife, Anne, until 1971. While living in the proto-dome home with its famed balcony library, Fuller, a super-prolific polymath and visionary of the highest order who is often credited as being the “grandfather of the green movement,” served as a professor at the nearby Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
During his tenure at SIUC, Massachusetts-born Fuller did what he did best: filed patents (his most famous U.S. patent for the geodesic dome
was filed several years prior in 1954), designed buildings (one of them being the Montreal Biosphere), wrote books, lectured, and racked up honorary degrees. During this period, Fuller was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Fuller's own geodesic dome home — a housing concept originally envisioned as a safe, energy-efficient, and affordable means of shelter for housing-strapped postwar America — in Carbondale served him well and was, interesting enough, the only dome home that he actually lived in and owned. After Fuller and his wife vacated the 1,200-square-foot property and relocated to Philadelphia, things, as they tend to do, went downhill.
For decades, the dome home at 407 S. Forest Ave. was rented out as housing for SIUC students, which, on paper, doesn't sound too disagreeable. But in reality, a 30-year-long parade of tenants resulted in the structure falling into a state of disrepair. It wasn’t until 2001 when Fuller’s dome home was purchased by a private owner (a friend and former colleague of Bucky) who, the following year, handed over to a preservation-minded nonprofit organization, RBF Dome NFP, that a serious push to save the home began. In 2003, twenty years after Fuller's death at the age of 87, the home was awarded with City of Carbondale Landmark Designation. Three years later, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The movement to restore Fuller's Carbondale dome home to its former glory and reopen it as a museum that amplifies “the positive message of hope for the success of all humanity that was at the core of Fuller’s philosophy” has been a lengthy and expensive one, bolstered by grassroots fundraising efforts, contributions from the city, and a grant from the Save America’s Treasures Foundation. In addition to extensive interior work, a main focus of the restoration effort has been converting that iconic domed roof — covered in layers of asphalt shingles and stripped of its original skylights over the years — back to its original state.
According to KFVS 12
, the restoration project is due to break ground on April 19. It’s unclear — the Fuller Dome Home website
hasn’t been updated to reflect this current news — when the projected completion date is or when the nonprofit plans to officially open the museum to the public.
Fantastic news all around. I'm sure that Fuller, wherever he may be — probably furiously revising the "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" from somewhere in the great beyond — would be pleased.
And if you’re looking for a Bucky-inspired geodesic dome home to call your own, it’s your lucky day: a rather-swank — built-in wet bar! Eight-person hot tub! Solarium! — four-bedroom dome home in the Philadelphia suburb of Schwenksville, Pa. just hit the market for $515K. Current owner Mark Chest, who has pretty much paid zero on energy bills during his time in the own thanks to a slew of energy-saving features, tells Philly.com
: “We loved the design. Bucky Fuller was so avant-garde; his whole goal in life was to solve future problems.”