Design in pratica.

Geodesic Dome: how architecture imitates the Earth’s structure.
A modular architectural structure inspired by geometric principles.

The geodesic dome is an architectural structure that brings together art and technique by reproducing the spherical shape of the Earth, in other words a geoid. It does not require internal components to support itself, such as walls or pillars, but is instead created through repeated modular elements made up of simple geometric shapes, starting with the triangle. Its construction is based on the extension of some basic principles of simple solid, such us tetrahedron, octahedron and solids with a greater number of faces, which can be considered an approximation of the sphere. The result is an extremely lightweight, stable, low cost structure, easy to transport and simple to assemble.

The first real geodesic dome was built by the engineer Walter Bauersfeld for the projector of a planetarium, in the period just before the First World War. Consequently, the architect Richard B. Fuller apparently had the same idea during the 1950s, naming it geodesic dome. In Italy there is a geodesic dome donated by Fuller himself, the Spoletosphere, which is usually used for artistic and cultural events.

This dome is extremely stable and resistant when built properly and the stability is in direct proportion to its size, moreover it is particularly resilient to extreme atmospheric events, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or strong wind loads. This characteristic would make it ideal for living in extreme environmental conditions or in case of risky natural disasters. Usually the supporting structure is built in wood or metal, while the weight-bearing structure can be made from the modular elements themselves, constituted of natural, resistant, breathable or insulating materials depending on the need; moreover, in the creation of the roof, the materials can be combined creatively in relation to colors, coverings or windows, such as the geodesic domes built by the Drop City movement, an original counterculture community of the ’60 in Colorado (USA) →.

Eden Project, Geodesic Dome ©
Two of the Domes built by Drop City Residents at their commune near Trinidad: The Hole and The Complex © 1967

Therefore, depending on the necessity and availability of resources, the accessibility of this structure allows the domes to be fabricated independently, according to a grassroot methodology, that usually starts from simple, natural or recycled material, in association with green building practices; or they can be used to build up luxury architectures provided with all comforts, which can look into more futuristic approaches, implementing avant-garde technologies and new materials, as in the case of the Geoship, a company which has integrated the use of bioceramics, a highly resistant material with a low environmental impact.

Its function is versatile, it can be used as a greenhouse, host a botanical garden, or it can be a real living, laboratory, theatrical, meditative space, as in the case of the Monroyo Dome in Spain designed by the engineer Alessandro di Mauro. Furthermore, if built on a large scale, the structure can also act as a shell or “protective umbrella”, housing traditional buildings inside, or it can become thematic botanical village, as in the case of the Eden project in Cornwall, which houses two of the largest biospheres in the world →.

It is necessary to consider the limits and critical issues of this architectural structure as well as highlighting its interesting and innovative aspects, such as the problems of arranging the subdivision of the internal spaces, the margins and the furnishing of the space, however these same limits can open a wider reflection on our habits and traditions, the normality in our daily lives. These limits should not prevent us from thinking freely about new original housing solutions, or new design objects, or new social, domestic and relational horizons (as Fuller imagined).


This dossier refers to the topics covered in the eighth virtuous design practice “Dynamic energy with a proper concentration.” and wants to leave the burden and the honor of continuing with the design to the user.

Articles covering the same topics

‣ The Rise and Fall of Drop City, Western Art and Architecture, 2009.

‣ The Eden Project

‣ Monroyo Geodesic Dome, AleDima Studio, Architecture.

‣ For Geoship, the house of the future is a bioceramic dome, Domus, 2022.


9 October 2023


 9 October 2023