Buckminister (Bucky) Fuller was born in 1895. He taught at NC's Black Mountain College during the summers of 1948 and 1949. There, with the support of a group of professors and students, he began reinventing a project that would make him famous: the geodesic dome.
Although the geodesic dome was invented some 30 years earlier by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld, Fuller was awarded many US patents and is credited for making it popular. International recognition came from Fuller's huge geodesic domes in the 1950s. Fuller taught at Washington University in St. Louis.
Fuller came to the NCSU School of Design many times and influenced T. C. Howard, who had a double major in architecture and engineering. Howard became part of Fuller's dome enterprise, Synergetics Inc. and became owner when Fuller left in 1958.
Howard grew up in Denver NC and went to school at NCSU in Nuclear Engineering. He became an architect by passing the state architecture exam, establishing a reputation for brilliance that still endures.
In 1956, Synergetics was under contract to the United States Department of Commerce. They designed and test-built a 100-foot diameter trade fair pavilion dome in Raleigh. It was then flown to Kabul, Afghanistan and later used for trade fairs and expositions in South America, Africa, Europe and the Orient. That same year Synergetics designed and built what was at the time the world's largest free-span structure, a 384-foot diameter geodesic dome in Baton Rouge, Louisiana constructed for the Union Tank Car Company as a facility to house and repair railroad cars.
Synergetics Inc.'s dome business boomed, including commissions for the St. Louis Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden, left. A 125-foot diameter hemisphere was designed for use by Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Ghana, and various other domes went to the Air Force Academy, the 1961 Seattle and 1964 New York World's Fairs, and to Cleveland, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Niagara Falls.
Howard was also an owner of Charter Industries, Inc. that leased domes around the world. The domes at the NC Fairgrounds are portable Charter spheres.
Typically, domes are better suited as commercial rather than residential application. They can be erected on a moment's notice, provide an instant venue, then packed up and on to the next town. More than 500,000 geodesic domes were built around the world and many are still in use.
According to the Buckminster Fuller Institute, the largest geodesic-dome structures are:
Adapted from Wikipedia and NC Architects and Builders.
1962 - The Bernard Judge Residence, Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles CA. one of the most famous domes in America. Designed by architect Bernard Judge. It was difficult to control the heat coming through the top, so Judge made a layer of fabric, shown above. That did not work, so he added openings in the glass. Top left photo by Julius Shulman. Bottom photo by Ralph Crane.
1982 - The William H. Bahr House, 1326 Poplar Lane, Hillsborough NC. Assembled from a kit by the Bahrs. Was unoccupied and on the market 2007-2011. Sold in 2012 to John Corey who is fixing it up.
1998 - The Kay and Les MacFee Dome, 3300 Tranquil Trail, Mebane NC. 45' diameter, 2400 square feet, 3 levels, 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. Located on a 10 acre lot. As of 2012 still owned by the MacFees.
1983 - The Sam Brooks Dome,
3620 Hawk Ridge Road, Chapel Hill.
2000 - The Jim and Melanie Kaslik Dome, aka Cloud Hidden, 611 Upper Sondley Drive, Asheville NC. Manufactured by Monolithic Domes. Overlooks the Blue Ridge Parkway. 5300 square feet of heated living space, 2000 square feet of unheated living space and 1000 square feet in an elevated, two-level, stamped-concrete porch. Featured on HGTV in 2001. Featured in the Aug/Sep 2003 issue of Fine Homebuilding Magazine. Featured Sep 2006 in Architectural Digest. Sold in 2007 to Craig Crossman.
2004 - The Mark Molitor Residence, 301 Sky Lane, Pittsboro NC. 10 acres. Molitor designed the house himself. The shell is a kit configured from Oregon Dome consisting of 2”x6” Douglas Fir construction materials. It arrived in a 53’ trailer. The exterior is stone and has an insulated concrete form basement. Molitor served as general contractor and did most of the finishing work. There is a 4-floor manual dumbwaiter!
unknown - The Dan Stern Dome.
Year Unknown - Rougemont NC in Person County.
Sources include: Mark Molitor, Leilani Carter, Katrina Howard.