Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 4:06 AM

To examine the nature of the relationship between the structure and construction of the Dymaxion dwelling machine, including how these inform the overall shape of the building, it is crucial to understand the underlying objectives of the project. The dwelling was designed to be mass produced through prefabrication making it affordable, and to be easy to transport and assemble. In fact, the entire dwelling was designed so it would be only slightly more expensive then a car and could be assembled by a single person without any help. Both the shape of the building and its structural system work together to meet these criteria.

When designing the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, Fuller took advantage of the tensile strength of steel. The entire structure is suspended in tension from a central mast which transmits the loads to the foundations. The benefit to this tensile structure is that it dramatically reduces the size and weight of the structural members: thin steel rods and aluminum sheets compared to bulky 2x4’s and heavy bricks. As a result of the tensile structure the building weighed a mere 2.7 tons, in comparison to a traditional 135 ton building, and with each piece weighing less than 10 lb. it could be constructed by only one person. The building was also incredibly strong standing to even the harshest of environments, to prove this the Witchita house was constructed under gale force winds. Additionally, when a tornado passed within 300 yards of the dwelling in 1964 the house emerged undamaged. It is also worthy to note that the structure is built primarily from the top down due to its tensile nature. The floorboards are erected first to provide a surface to work on following this the roof is assembled, hoisted in to place, and the remainder of the building envelope is built from the roof to the floor.

In addition the circular dome shape of the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine also allows for a significant reduction in weight by minimizing the envelope. The sphere contains the most volume in relation to surface area (the circle accomplishes this in two dimensions), this is why bubbles are always round: it is the most efficient shape. The dome shape of the building takes advantage of this property and minimizes the amount of building envelope needed to enclose the space. This results once again in a reduction of weight and cost. Furthermore the circular arrangement of all the structural members in the building allows for maximum repetition in all components allowing for much greater efficiency in mass production and a much lower cost.

It is clear that by minimizing the weight, size, variety, and amount of structural components including the building the envelope that the Dymaxion machine has met all of its objectives. The dwelling is very lightweight making it easy to transport and assemble. The building is also well suited to mass production and, if mass produced, extremely affordable.

Myles McCaulay


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