Composites in Architecture: Fuller’s Neo-Futuristic Design Realized Through Modern Composites




When Buckminster Fuller first designed the Fly’s Eye Dome, he was imagining a highly efficient – in terms of energy and materials – housing solution.  The many circular openings would serve as windows and doors, as well as collectors of solar and wind energies.  In addition, the concave composite frame was carefully designed to collect rainwater runoff.

Although Fuller passed away before his concept of a portable, self-sufficient home gained much popularity, the 24-foot and 50-foot prototypes he commissioned have not been forgotten.  A replica of the 24-foot dome, built in our shop in Bristol, Rhode Island made its way down to Miami earlier this year, finding its new home in Palm Court in the Florida city’s Design District.

Through working with the Buckminster Fuller Institute (and the project manager, Dan Reiser), Goetz Composites reproduced the 24-foot Fly’s Eye Dome using modern technologies; technologies which Fuller surely would have employed if he were alive today.  First, a 3D parametric model was produced from the original design.  The complex tooling was then cut, using a 5-axis CNC machine.  The composite parts were engineered and laminated in accordance with Miami-Dade County Building Code, which includes careful regulation of flame spread, smoke toxicity, and hurricane durability.

An article published this week in The Wall Street Journal discussed a shift in luxury retail, focusing specifically on this district.  The appeal of open-air shopping (in comparison with mall shopping) for luxury goods stems from more than just the mass presence of retail’s elite.  The environment of ‘high-street’ markets (outdoor shopping areas like Fifth Avenue in Manhattan) is a significant factor in the entire shopping experience.  Craig Robbins, a developer working on the Miami shopping center, says that much of the Design District’s appeal comes from the fact that “you can walk around and see spectacular art and design.”  In the case of the Fly’s Eye Dome, visitors can experience the work of art from the inside as well; it will serve as a pedestrian entryway to the underground parking garage.

4D Printing

4D Printing Carbon Fiber

Recent developments in the way of what MIT research scientist Skylar Tibbits is calling 4D printing have been announced.  Because 3D printers are readily available and are increasingly well-understood by the general public, it must be time for something bigger and better.  The fourth dimension is a dynamic component that creates a changing structure over time.  We are now seeing a possibility that the futuristic wonderland Marty McFly introduced us to may not be far from materialization.

At a 2013 TED conference, Tibbits first presented his idea of “programmable materials that build themselves.”  He demonstrated how, with today’s rapidly advancing nanotechnologies, we can “program physical and biological materials to change shape, change properties and even compute outside of silicon-based matter.”  The impact that this could have on development at the human scale is vast; and ideas from increasingly diverse industries is just what Tibbits needs in order to keep his Self-Assembly Lab at MIT running at full speed.

Articles released by Wired and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) over the past two weeks have shown us just where those ideas, in combination with Tibbits’ team’s expertise, can take us.  4D printing uses meticulously constructed layers of material – nearly any material will do – with programmed design to alter their shape using passive energies.  Carbitex, a company specializing in the production of flexible carbon fiber, has begun work with printed materials on the fibers that make the fully cured carbon active and reactive to certain energy.  Applications in automotive, aerospace, and athletic industries (self-lacing Nikes?) are already in the works, and it is apparent that where we are going, we don’t need complex, expensive, and cumbersome electrical systems to control robotic movement.

2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race

 Alvimedica11It has been an exciting year for local sailor Charlie Enright.  His public announcement in January of this year that he, along with friend Mark Towill, would be partnering with young Turkish medical technologies company Alvimedica for a campaign in the 2014-2015 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race earned him a prominent seat in the forefront of sailing media.  American sailors and under 30s, along with dark horses of various other shapes and sizes begun to follow team Alvimedica as they set out on their journey to the esteemed race around the world.

With almost half of the crew competing in their first Volvo Ocean Race, onlookers have been eager to watch closely as Charlie and Alvimedica work to tear down the stigma surrounding youth and inexperience.  In a recent interview, Charlie told Scuttlebutt, “We are good sailors with an understanding of the skills under our belts, and a reasonable understanding of what is ahead of us.  We are positive, hungry for this experience, and willing to learn as we go.”

The in-port race in Alicante, Spain on October 4 bore striking resemblance to any other one-design fleet race.  After many lead changes and seriously tight racing all-around, Alvimedica crossed the finish line with a comfortable lead.  Sponsors and supporters everywhere breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief as the boys proved that they may, after all, have what it takes to give the old guys a run for their money in this race.  You can certainly color me convinced.

Click here to follow the Volvo Ocean Race, as seven teams compete over the next several months on each of the nine legs.

2014 RIMTA Anchor Award

goetz-anchor-awardEric Goetz received the 2014 RIMTA Anchor Award at the organization’s Annual Industry Breakfast on September 13 in Newport, R.I

Peter Van Lancker of Hunt Yachts presented Eric Goetz with his Anchor Award. Van Lancker praised Goetz as an innovator who has built elegant composite structures with precision, accuracy, and engineering skill, and also as someone who has shaped an industry as a teacher and mentor to many in the field.,-local-dignitaries/126835