History of Domes
How it all began
Richard Buckminster Fuller, the history of geodesic domes and Solardome Industries today
The design principles of the Solardome® glasshouse are based on the revolutionary work of American inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician and cosmologist, Richard Buckminster ‘Bucky’ Fuller (1895 – 1983). He was the second president of Mensa and awarded 25 US patents. Throughout his life, Fuller was concerned with whether ‘humanity has a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?’ In pursuing this lifelong experiment, Fuller wrote more than 30 books and pioneered numerous inventions, chiefly in the fields of design and architecture. In the 1940s he set out to create a ‘design science’ that would produce the best solution to mankind’s housing problems using minimal consumption of energy and materials. By replicating ‘nature’s own co-ordinate system’ which can be found in all spheres – from planets to molecules – and understanding that gravitational forces are spherical, his work challenged the efficiency of the traditional ‘linear’ architectural structures, and the geodesic design was born. This remarkable, sphere-like structure was based on theories of ‘energetic-synergetic geometry’. Fuller demonstrated that a sphere was the most efficient space as it encloses the most volume using least surface area. Any dome therefore has the least surface through which to lose heat and has the unique ability to stand up to potentially damaging winds.
Fuller’s efforts in creating the geodesic dome were applauded in 1970 when he was awarded a gold medal by the American Institute of Architects, critically acclaiming it as ‘the strongest, lightest and most efficient means of enclosing space known to man.’ Carbon molecules known as ‘fullerenes’ or ‘buckyballs’ are so-called of their resemblance to a geodesic sphere.
It was NATOs early warning radar system – a giant golf ball shaped radar dome – that was designed in the 1960s by the Buckminster Fuller organisation that caught the eye of an engineer living in North Yorkshire; if they can withstand these weather conditions then they would make the ultimate in greenhouse design.
He explored the Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes and their principles and in 1969 designed and manufactured the first European geodesic dome, a 14’ 6” SOLARDOME® 2.
For the next two decades Rosedale Engineers, the Yorkshire company, sold many 100s of stainless steel or aluminium low profile geodesic domes which ranged from 10ft to 20ft. The majority of these old greenhouse domes are still in use and loved today; a true testament to their strength and durability.
In the early 1990s the well known and popular Channel 4 television programme, The Crystal Maze, featured a bespoke Solardome® geodesic dome. ‘The Crystal Dome’ was at the heart of the maze where the contestants took part in their final challenge.
Solardome Industries Limited
In 1995 the company was sold and became Solardome Industries Limited, and is now based in Hampshire. It was from these early greenhouse domes that with improvements and changes to design and construction methods our Solardome® glasshouses have evolved into a range of larger, taller glass buildings suitable for many applications across the domestic, commercial and educational markets.
Solardome Industries is now a world leader and expert in geodesic domes and spheres based on aluminium and toughened glass construction. Our standard glasshouse domes range in size from 3.6m to 10.1m diameter. We also offer a bespoke design service for our Solardome® PRO architectural system for larger geodesic domes up to 20m diameter.