Totems from Geodesic Domes


As part of a research project on counterculture movements I’ve been making totems from past projects that have included geodesic domes.

Artifacts from public spaces like Waterpod project (NY, 2009), the Flock House Project (NY, Boston, and Omaha, ongoing), and Triple Island (LES, NY 2013) are repurposed into three sculptural totems. They were once functional, utilized as domes, spheres, or walls that constructed spaces for inhabitants and guests.

I refer to Buckminster Fuller’s work with geodesic domes for several reasons. I believe in his rhetoric about considering accessibility through tools. For him the dome was all about making something that anyone could build.  I believe it’s important for each of us to be able to make things that we can use with and amongst other people.

My views differ from Fuller’s proclamations in many ways. Fuller argued that appropriate means of dissemination (smooth supply chains) was the answer to housing everyone. We are very aware that isn’t true. I’m concerned about the dependency many people have on large, complex supply chains to meet our most basic needs, and believe that powerful supply networks have enabled endless development, while numerous political and market-driven factors keep us from ever reaching Fuller’s utopian goals.

That same optimism of Fuller’s is clear in the symbol of the dome. Yet the photographs of mostly abandoned communes where the dome stood (symbolic for decades) tell a different set of stories. Those are the stories I’m interested in unpacking. What was this countercultural movement, actually? What can it tell us about the solitude of small communities? How did Fuller’s intentions fit into this very Libertarian set of values?

I’ve been creating these living systems that always contain some aspect of function versus non-function, and always utilize steel conduit for part of the architecture.  Often the conduit I use has been repurposed from buildings that require electrical wiring to be covered in steel.  Using materials leftover from one building to create another has been a consistency in this work. It narrates a new space being built from an old one, but this time it’s severe, almost dystopian but with an element of potential through resource-sharing. Many times it’s mobile due to economic, environmental and political conditions. It’s about working with what you have, finding anything potentially suitable to build a structure, and many times the structure that can be built is round because of odds and ends that need to be pieced together.

With the totems I’m thinking about the final form, the non-utilitarian art object, the useless, and to me these are the most dystopian of all. Relics of hope turned luxury item.