Throwback Thursday: Building a Geodesic Dome

The Ouroboros is the serpent which circles around itself and swallows its own tail, a symbol of eternity. A circle. Like the Ouroboros, we come ‘round in our own circle to a new year and new promises; promises made, promises kept, promises left dangling. Everywhere you turn you follow the curve, be it backwards or forwards. Backwards, counter-culturally, you go against the grain. Or forwards, following the grain, following traditional paths. But really, no matter what, you close your eyes and you end up back where you started. History has the habit of repeating itself. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If we as a species understood this, maybe there’d be less fighting in the world. Circles inform us to beware of the road ahead. Learn from your mistakes. Circles are free-flowing, absent angles to get stuck in. Unbroken circles, unlike squares, always bring you ‘round—back to where it all begins. Rebirth and eternity.

Throwback Thursday: Building a Geodesic Dome

Squares

There are few natural squares in the world—with the exception of crystals, and perhaps salt. But those are far from perfect. Circles are far from perfect. Squares and circles are only perfect in mathematics. Still, circles dominate the natural world. You only have to think of that wondrous cylindrical creation: the rolled joint. But mankind likes to make squares, lives in squares. Nature makes circles, nature lives in circles. We should all live in circles. But most of us live in square houses and live out our lives confined to a box. Like a jail cell. Still, there are spheres to be had. If only you can rope them. I roped one a long time ago.

Building the Dome

Over the course of six or seven months in the spring, summer and fall of 1970, Sven, Haggis and I helped the McClintric brothers build their new home: a geodesic dome situated on a piece of property high in the foothills on a rocky promontory overlooking Boulder, Colorado. A geodesic dome as a residential structure is a domed half circle sitting on the ground. Below, the circle is hidden, but still there—but only in your mind—extending around and up, meeting its other half above ground, soaring upward to the apex at the top. A completed circle. Half physically in the here-and-now. Half in your imagination. If you let your imagination run wild, then the thrill of being inside a dome, especially if you’re high on some good weed, is a nonpareil experience, bar none. I know—I’ve experienced it.

Pentagons Make Circles

We started the project in May, when there was a smattering of snow on the ground. We first built a substantial deck, which would serve as the platform for the dome. Once we finished that task we assembled various triangles in framing forms, interlocking these pieces together by nailing five of them together, which formed a pentagon. These pentagons would be the bedrock of the structure. Yes, a pentagon is made up of angles, but when they’re all placed together they form a circle, creating curves, the circle of a dome. We completed the first phase, setting them around the base then nailing them into place. After that we stood on scaffolding, taking the finished pentagons and hoisting them upwards, pushing the structure higher, bolting the pentagons together. The curve of the dome was taking shape. After three months, the time came when we nailed the last of the pentagons to the top. The triangular-shaped Plexiglas pieces were fit into various triangular frames, which would serve as the windows.

Throwback Thursday: Building a Geodesic Dome

The outside structure was now complete, except for laying down tar paper and nailing shingles in various places on the structure to serve as the roof. Once we started work on the inside we used foam panels to insulate the inside walls, then laid drywall over that. Soon, a kitchen was installed and a platform that served as the upstairs bedroom was built. At the end of December we completed the last pieces of the dome. It was a sight to behold, rising out of a new snowfall with the bare trees surrounding it, clapping their branches in appreciation.

Bucky Fuller

R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller popularized the concept of geodesic domes in the 1960s, and it caught on with the counterculture. Living inside a sphere with free-flowing, towering curves instead of hard angles that produce squares and rectangles makes you feel freer and more in tune with life around you. Living in a dome is like living in nature, the outside and inside world curled around you. Like the dome of the sky overhead, your brain floating in the dome of your skull.

A New Year

After we enclosed the structure on that cold December’s day, we put the final touches on the last niggling details that had to be finished—which, if we didn’t finish, would never get finished. We had vowed not to smoke weed or drink alcohol inside the structure until the whole project was finished. Of course, we’d take breaks and sit outside around a fire, smoking and drinking, but never inside. That would be reserved for New Year’s Eve. December 31st arrived, and I was chomping at the bit to get the party started. The circle would be joined and unbroken, and all of us would be together when the new year began all over again.

Throwback Thursday: Building a Geodesic Dome

The Long Flight

The motorcycle gang, Blister Bay, arrived at 6 PM with twenty members riding their Harleys. I had recently bought a bike myself, a Triumph 650 Bonneville TT. When I parked it next to the bevy of Harleys it looked minuscule, but the gang loved its sleek lines. It wasn’t a hog, but a sleek eagle ready for the long flight. A flight I was ready to take when we kicked the new year in the butt with a circle.

High in the Dome

Having my first joint inside the dome was a real treat, one I haven’t experienced since. The expanse of the dome soaring above me made me feel secure, not enclosed inside of a box. My spirit seemed to fly as I inhaled. I believe I got higher than I had ever gotten before, on weed that was just normal $16-an-ounce weed. Nothing special, not Panama Red. Except for the environment. I was looking up through the top windows that framed the apex of the dome in a pentagram, stars peeking through and winking back at me. I watched the squares and angles dissolve into the form of the circle, my life opening into the curve. At that moment I raced around the circle, free and unimpeded, spinning along the curve, all angles dissolving.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I believe we all should live inside circles. The world, as I said before, would be a better place. Serenity would overtake the inherent aggression of the square. Angles are indeed subservient to the circle. Witness the triangles that, when fitted together into pentagons, form the circle. It is as though mankind somehow stopped growing after creating angles, forgetting to put them together to create the sphere. Will the circle be unbroken? Only the Ouroboros knows.

Throwback Thursday: Building a Geodesic Dome

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