The Life & Times of Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome: A Documentary

In the early 20th century, the visionary inventor Buckminster Fuller started looking for ways to improve human shelter by:

  • Applying modern technological know-how to shelter construction.
  • Making shelter more comfortable and efficient.
  • Making shelter more economically available to a greater number of people.

And what he came up with (read more here) was the “geodesic” dome.” This dome held appeal for two main reasons: 1.) its surface would be “omnitriangulated,” meaning built out of small triangles, which would give the overall structure unparalleled strength. And 2.) domes by their very nature enclose the greatest volume for the least surface area, which makes them very efficient.

Fuller developed the mathematics for the geodesic dome and helped make it an architectural reality. You can find instances where these domes served as auditoriums, weather observatories, and storage facilities in the US and Canada. And then above, you watch a documentary called A Necessary Ruin: The Story of Buckminster Fuller and the Union Tank Car DomeShot by Evan Mather in 2010, the documentary tells the story of the dome built in Baton Rouge, LA in 1958. At 384 feet in diameter, the Union Tank Car Dome was the world’s largest free-span structure then in existence. Mather’s documentary includes ” interviews with architects, engineers, preservationists, media, and artists; animated sequences demonstrating the operation of the facility; and hundreds of rare photographs and video segments taken during the dome’s construction, decline, and demolition.” It was funded by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and you can now find it our collection of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Visit handcraftedfilms.com for more info on Mather’s film and/or to purchase the DVD.

Related Content

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975)

Watch an Animated Buckminster Fuller Tell Studs Terkel All About “the Geodesic Life”

Better Living Through Buckminster Fuller’s Utopian Designs: Revisit the Dymaxion Car, House, and Map

Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More


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  • Katrina Howard Fairley says:

    Evan Mather’s video neglects one huge ERROR! TC Howard of Synergetics, Inc designed the Union Tank Car Dome along with Dr. ME Uyanik, structural engineer. The dome was a triacon domed truss. Buckminster Fuller did not design this dome. Fuller was co-owner of Synergetics, Inc and held the patent to geodesic dome geometry. Synergetics, Inc was located in Raleigh, NC. TC Howard is both a licensed architect and a licensed engineer. Bucky Fuller was neither an architect nor an engineer. The Union Tank Car Dome was the largest clear-span dome in the world in 1958 at 384′.- Synergetics, Inc spokesman and TC Howard’s daughter

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