The Dymaxion House

Not an ‘Airstream trip’, but this exhibit at The Henry Ford is such a close relative to the ‘silver luv sub’, albeit a more ‘sedentary’ cousin, I thought it deserved a blog post.

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Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House.  ‘Dy’ for dynamic, ‘Max’ for maximum living space, and ‘Ion’ for tension (the entire house is supported by the central column).

Dymaxion House, The Henry Ford Museum
Dymaxion House, The Henry Ford Museum

Designed in the 20’s, but not actually built until the late 40’s.  The model on display at THF is actually a restoration using the only two (slightly different) prototypes ever built.

Dymaxion wireframe elevation
Dymaxion wireframe elevation

From the Buckminster Fuller Institute website:

Bucky designed a home that was heated and cooled by natural means, that made its own power, was earthquake and storm-proof, and made of permanent, engineered materials that required no periodic painting, reroofing, or other maintenance. You could easily change the floor plan as required – squeezing the bedrooms to make the living room bigger for a party, for instance.

 

Downdraft ventilation drew dust to the baseboards and through filters, greatly reducing the need to vacuum and dust. O-Volving Shelves required no bending; rotating closets brought the clothes to you. The Dymaxion House was to be leased, or priced like an automobile, to be paid off in five years. All this would be possible now if houses were engineered, mass-produced, and sold like cars. $40,000.00 sounds about right

 

Exterior, looking toward kitchen
Exterior, looking toward kitchen
Floor at 'core' wall detail
Floor at ‘core’ wall detail

The unit is approximately 1000 square feet, and could be assembled by a two man crew in ten days.  The only foundation is a central concrete pier.

Tight quarters... looks like an old Airstream bathroom
Tight quarters… familiar for vintage Airstream owners

 

Living room
Living room

Because energy was relatively inexpensive, and insulation materials were inefficient (and therefore not used), the shell of this house has what I would estimate a <.9 R value.  In other words, if you were living in this thing today, you’d go broke from your utility bill.

Section of family room with ceiling skin removed.
Section of family room with ceiling skin removed.

That foil is actually for water control.  It conducts moisture and rain water that enters at slots in the exterior panels, to an internal perimeter ‘gutter’, that drains to a cistern for recycling.

Detail of wall construction, looking up at perimeter window.
Detail of wall construction, looking up at perimeter window.

It’s a beautiful model.  There’s an interesting documentary on the background of the unit, that also chronicles the museums careful restoration.  Both times we’ve visited, the curators were knowledgeable and informative.  It’s just one of many at The Henry Ford, we all enjoy.

An ingenious idea, that unfortunately, never got off the ground.

For all you who are disappointed I’ve strayed from ‘all things Airstream’ on this post, The Henry Ford has this exhibit:

Airstream Bambi
Airstream Bambi

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