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.