Geodesic Dome, STEMNET workshop, Buckminsterfuller,

The 12th of July was Buckminsterfuller's birthday!

This summer (July 14th to be precise) as part of the STEMNET volunteer program I helped to build a geodesic dome. With 10 students from Elen Wilkinson School for Girls (located in North Ealing), artist and friend Darcey Williamson, the guidance of Mr Hayes (their Chemistry teacher and Science co-ordinator), Miss Idros (maths teacher) and her husband (who kindly took a day off work) we embarked on the building endeavour- which took 4 days.  The girls also got a fabulous talk from Sumita Sinha (Course leader, MA Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources London Metropolitan University) who brought to light the importance of both male AND female perspectives in architecture, how women (a rare thing is a female architect) have access to perspective a male may not have in mind (and vice versa) but she highlighted that there is a lack of women in the field among other very interesting ideas and truths about WOMEN IN ARCHITECTURE.

Using marshmallows and toothpicks for a demo to test the structural integrity of squares VS that of triangles, we quickly established and verified that indeed- TRIANGLES are 'better than squares at holding things up'. Your intuitions may have been quite accurate in supposing that 'sides facing in' from a base and that meet near or at each others tops provide reliable support. 

Discussing the purpose of maths in design, technology, engineering, architecture and the arts, brought us to BUCKMINSTERFULLER amongst others and helped in avoiding the many a snooze situation we feared. Indeed mathematics is a surprisingly far reaching discipline and while a 15 year old human may protest 'whats the point?' it becomes painstakingly obvious that its useful. FACT. It is almost well nigh impossible to prevent a 15 year old in gravitating towards thinking of this kind- 'whats the point' is an utterance to be expected from a 15 year old but really its just another way of saying 'WHY?' (unless what is meant by 'whats the point' has some kind of symbolic rhetorical meaning- which is possible). I digress. More to the point (FACT!) if you want to build things for your self, if you want to do something in or to your environment, if you want to DESIGN if you want to MAKE you need to know something about the material nature of reality; the height of your wall for instance and the fact that triangles are strong structures (albeit that many good shelves can be made without triangulation however few durable structures are made with out measurement and accuracy.) 

We wanted to emphasise the significance of contributing to your environment. Contribution, collaboration and importantly the absolute necessity for creativity in engineering- "where and how can I apply 'this' principle to a problem that effects a lot of people?" 'This' i.e. BUCKMINSTERFULLER'S geodesic Domes. Of course there are troves of applications and the interdependency of creativity, design, maths and engineering is undeniable. 

Hello Buckminsterfuller and D O M E ! 

Squares collapsed

And the intermediate solution of the tetrahedron (square based pyramid) was found by all through triangulating the squares.
The girls arranged all the struts in the correct configuration, with the copings placed where they meet each other.
Different sized copings, make different shapes.... 
That eventually fit like this! (Credit to Solardome for this plan)
Darcey and the girls.
The cement foundations had already been set, here is Mr Hayes.
D A Y  2:  I T  B E G I N E T H !
Placing the base plates

D A Y  3: Awkward stances, chairs on top of chairs.
D A Y  4 : GLAZING and SEALING! Here is Leila using silicon for sealing the glass.

And the end is nigh!


Geodesic Dome as emergency shelter post Hurricane Katrina 
Hurricane Katrina
Releif dome in Haiti 
The Hayward
Yes, these are made from quadrilaterals, but imagine that they are squares with triangles on either side, you still get strengthening 'angles' (Ecological Silicon Valley in China's Miaofeng Mountains)


kacolac | 12 October 2011 at 10:19

I'd like to be inside it. what a good dome and good fun too