On Community and Geodesic Domes

On Community and Geodesic Domes

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s was a time of wonder and creativity, with unbridled experimentation permeating every pursuit whether it be music, art, architecture, or community. Some communities constructed in that era are still alive and well today. We recently took a trip back in time by deconstructing three geodesic domes that had been built during this period in West Marin. While the precision and artistry of the buildings was apparent throughout the structures, so too was the community spirit that went into conceiving these beauties. 

The team that built the geodesic domes we deconstructed were a meditative group, and built them cooperatively. The domes were constructed of old growth fir struts cut to particular specifications to fit the stainless steel hub and straps, with plexiglass and fir interspersed as the sheathing. The community came out to see our work, and we were fortunate enough to meet some of the original builders. They were so grateful to see their hard work being lovingly dismantled for reuse in some new form. 

When most people think of the geodesic dome, we envision a space colony; think Spaceship Earth at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, or the “Biosphere 2” experiment in Arizona (this is still a working research center for the University of Arizona). The geodesic dome became popularized in the 1960’s by designer Buckminster Fuller, an architect, futurist and inventor, who was famous within counterculture and transcendentalist circles. For those of you who remember the Whole Earth Catalog, you could order a geodesic dome plan set in 1968. The first geodesic dome built still exists today as the Planetarium in Jena, Germany. 

I am no stranger to domes: my first time in a geodesic dome was at a neighbors beach retreat in Stinson Beach (it still stands today) in 1979. The space evoked feelings you do not encounter when in a square home.  It is difficult to put into words, but the best way I can describe it is that you feel held. The concept of surround sound is also not lost on you in a dome either. It's as if you can hear the thoughts of someone in the entry even when located on the second floor, and visa versa.

I also experienced the domes at UC Davis that were created in the 1970’s, although they are not geodesic. The “Baggins End” cooperative stirs emotions you rarely encounter today in our society. I would regularly visit friends who lived in them during graduate school after a shift at the nearby student farm. They were wonderfully cozy and warm, but the community ethos is what drew me to this space. Today, they still maintain a “living-learning community” that infuses the following tenets into life at The Domes:

  • Learning from one another, and educating others outside the community
  • Encouraging experimentation with yourself, your interests, and the space
  • Sharing resources – time, tools, meals, and knowledge (when we are able)
  • Providing affordable, low-income housing

We should all be so lucky as to have these values structured into our daily life. We are blessed to have the occasional visitor come to GreenLynx who lives on land where community is clearly central to their way of existence. Their gentle disposition seems to be directly tied to their cooperative way of living and connection with the earth they have built their dwellings on. 

While the concept of community living seems so natural and intrinsic to how humanity should exist, far too few people are exposed to the reality of living within the ‘it takes a village’’ concept  in the United States. More often than not, our society is constrained to living within four right angled walls, with our connection to others only existing within. Even now, in suburbia, we don’t know our neighbors or anyone else on our street.  Traditional ways of living are strewn aside for our modern “Western” way, leaving the feeling of “being held” behind.

We definitely took more away from the Geodesic dome deconstruction project than just physical materials. The shared human resources we observed on site taught us to take the time to respect our past, while at the same time examining how we live today. If recent talk of the “Blue zones” on social media and Netflix teaches us anything, it is that we must take the time to be in community. We appreciate our GreenLynx community, and look forward to developing more with all of you to enrich all of our lives. 


Come check out the physical materials we recovered at the lumber yard. Create your own retreat with one of our hexagon panels from the domes - use the hexagon wood panels as the roof to a gazebo or begin your own dome project. The plexiglass triangular pieces could also be used to build a creative greenhouse where you can ponder the meaning of life with your seedlings.

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