Fuller Dome Home to be fully restored

Fuller Dome Home to be fully restored

By Tyler Davis

Located at 407 S. Forest Ave., the dome is named after R. Buckminster Fuller, an SIU professor in the School of Art and Design for over 20 years. Fuller built the home in 1960 and designed the dome-shaped home as an answer to the housing crisis of the 50’s and 60’s.

The structure was donated to the R. Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewrett Dome Home Not-for-Profit Organization in 2002, and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2006.

The organization plans to repair the many problems that ail the house. Jon Davey, a professor in architecture and president of the Fuller Dome NFPO, said their efforts are more for preservation than restoration because the group’s effort is to make sure the dome is here to stay.


“We’re going to put a new rubber roof on it, rebuild the windows, the doors, the sky lights,” he said. “Turn the inside into a museum with a multimedia show … to show off the sight itself.”

Davey said the proposed museum will have furnishings similar to Fuller’s original home, as well as a gift shop and activities for children.

He said he hopes for repairs to be finished in fall of 2015.

Davey’s group has not raised the $300,000 needed to cover all the preservation efforts yet, but they have received substantial help. Davey said the National Park Service gave them the Save America’s Treasures grant worth $125,000 before the grant was discontinued in 2010.

The group also received $10,000 in matching money from the city of Carbondale. Acting Mayor Don Monty said the money was approved years ago but he is still in favor of the fund allocation because of Fuller’s impact on Carbondale, as well as the world.

“It’s important to memorialize somebody who was a very influential thinker in the 20th century,” he said. “It’s a concrete example of something he had designed, built and lived in.”

Monty said Carbondale tourism could benefit from the dome home, but he does not count on it as a substantial source of revenue. Carbondale Tourism Executive Director Cinnamon Wheeles-Smith said the sight has a specific demographic.


“Fuller does have a following and people familiar with him that would be interested in seeing it,” she said. “Any time we can add something cultural to Carbondale that shows more about the people who live here, we always have the opportunity for growth.”

Davey said the dome was a great breakthrough not only for architecture but for society. The dome’s design is much more space efficient, energy efficient and cost-effective than the conventional square house, he said. The home takes up less space than conventional, box-shaped homes and it’s lit naturally in most rooms by the use of skylights and side windows.

Davey said the home is heated by underground tubes that run warm water as well as good insulation. In the summer, the home is cooled by opening the skylights and side windows, which would constantly circulate cool air, Davey said.

Fuller’s ideas, such as the dome home and “dymaxion” car – which could seat 10 and got an astounding 40 miles to the gallon in 1933 – were groundbreaking inventions but never gained mainstream popularity because of the unconventional design, he said.

“It’s simple: curb appeal,” Davey said. “As Americans we have a concept of what a homestead should look like.”

Even though the geodesic dome never caught on in America, Fuller’s contributions to the university and to the arts and sciences are long-standing, Davey said. Fuller was a professor in the School of Art and Design for 21 years and thought of many of the inventions and ideas he became internationally renowned for while teaching at the university.

Davey said to this day people still associate Fuller with SIU.

“When I go around the world to Indonesia, Thailand, Egypt or India and I deliver papers, people come up to me and when I say ‘SIU,’ they say ‘Buckminster Fuller,'” Davey said. “SIU is known worldwide because of Fuller.”

The groundbreaking ceremony and party will be held April 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.