Back in 1965, neo-futuristic designer, architect, philosopher and all-around badass Buckminster Fuller designed and patented an “autonomous dwelling machine” that he coined the Fly’s Eye Dome. The designer, whose fascination with material usage and energy efficiency in design and architecture led to a career highlighted with a variety of geodesic dome designs, sadly passed away before his hand-built prototypes for the structure came to life as the real-world spaces he had envisioned.
This month, nearly 50 years after its original conception, the Fly’s Eye Dome has been brought to life in Miami with help from The Buckminster Fuller Institute, in partnership with Goetz Composites, ConformLab and DRDesign using advanced technologies and materials that weren’t available to Fuller in the 1970s.
In his 1982 book Critical Path, Fuller describes the 50-foot dome project as a culmination of “all that I had learned not only throughout [the] fifty year development period, but in all my thirty-two earlier years.”
The final design, which The Buckminster Fuller Institute commissioned design aficionado and Miami real estate developer Craig Robins to build, was recreated as a parametric 3D model based off of measurements from the original parts. Using a 5-axis CNC machine, the composite parts were fabricated and laminated in accordance with the Miami-Dade Coundy Building Code, which includes regulation requirements pertaining to flame spread, smoke toxicity and hurricane durability.
“The Design District dome is now perched on a plinth in the middle of a small reflecting pool, a few feet off the plaza floor, further enhancing the hovering, otherworldly quality of what Fuller would call its inherent ‘sphericity’,” wrote Miami architecture critic Alastair Gordon.
“It holds its own among the palm trees and luxury shops, its bubble-like lenses glistening in the sea-flecked Miami light. By crossing a narrow bridge, you enter the dome and descend a broadly spiraling staircase to the subterranean parking lot, but the best part is coming back up, looking skyward through the dome’s high-impact polycarbonate lenses. It’s hard to explain, but something perceptual comes unhinged. The head feels lighter, almost giddy with a kind of reverse vertigo. The dome expands the mind as it breaks away from orthogonal geometry and mimics the geometry of the human eye and the Earth itself. There is hardly any sense of boundary, only an ever-expanding membrane.”
It should go without saying, but next time you’re in Miami this is definitely worthy of a spot on your itinerary. In the meantime, you can find out more over at The Buckminster Fuller Institute.