It’s 1,100 square feet in the round. A post-war American dream wrapped in aluminum.
Looking more like a spaceship than a cozy family home, the sole surviving example of the Dymaxion House is open for inspection at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
The futuristic abode was conceived by R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (1895-1983), an inventor and designer who is best known for creation of the geodesic dome.
He developed this affordable, environmentally-friendly pre-fab “Dymaxion Dwelling Machine” in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until after WWII that he saw an opportunity to mass-produce the houses in the Beech Aircraft factory in Wichita, Kansas. This prototype was built 70 years ago, in 1945.
The metal structure is built around a central column and supported by tension suspension.
On a walk-through you can view the guts of the house as well as Bucky’s space-saving bathroom fixtures, tiny kitchen and innovative storage solutions including “O-volving” shelves. You have to see them to understand.
The name “Dymaxion” evolved from words that Bucky often used: dynamic, maximum and tension (and, I’ve learned, was also the name of a car he designed in the 1930s).
Fuller Houses built just two prototypes in 1945 before the company collapsed because Bucky wouldn’t compromise on design issues. The example now at The Henry Ford had been added onto and served as a family home in Wichita from 1948 until the 1970s.
That family donated the house to the museum and after a lengthy restoration process the Dymaxion House became a museum exhibit in 2001.
I stopped in recently to once again admire Bucky’s bold thinking…to thank the stars that my parents opted for a traditional suburban box of a house instead of a Dwelling Machine (though we were the proud owners of a Naugahyde couch at one time)…to do an odd, crayon rubbing of the structure…and to wonder whether the inventor of Jiffy Pop was inspired by the Dymaxion House when he came up with his self-contained, stovetop popcorn pan in the 1950s.
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Story and photos copyright Kath Usitalo, and may not be used without permission.