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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

The Dymaxion House: A New Way of Living

October 26, 2014 Archive Insight


How would you like to live in a round house built of aluminum, steel, and plastic, suspended on a mast like a giant umbrella, with built-in closets and shelves and a bathroom the size of an airplane toilet?

R. Buckminster Fuller thought this house, which he called the Dymaxion House, was just what the American public wanted. Fuller, an engineer, philosopher and innovative designer, conceived the house in 1927 and partnered with the Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas, to produce prototypes in 1945. Although Fuller designed his house so that it could be mass-produced, only one was ever built and lived in.

A New way of Living?

Fuller Houses, Inc. claimed that this innovative house could change the way people lived. The1,017 square foot house, with a foyer, living/dining room, two bedrooms, and kitchen and laundry, was all anyone needed for living. It was:

  • big enough for everyone in the family
  • small enough to be cozy
  • lovely to look at
  • easy to clean

    How might living in this unusual round house change the way you live? Take a close look at the house design and consider the following:

    1. The exterior is highly-polished aluminum that does not require painting.

    If everyone lived in a Dymaxion House, would you be able to tell your house from your neighbor's? Would you enjoy not having to paint this house, or would you dislike the fact that your house looked like everyone else's?

    2. The house was 1,017 square feet with pre-set rooms - and there's no basement.

    It's now 2001 and your newly-divorced daughter, her three kids and big dog have moved in. Where do you put them? Do you tell them not to join you?

    3. The kitchen is a long, thin galley with appliances nicely built into the frame.

    The refrigerator has gone on the fritz and the design of this kitchen does not offer much room for a replacement. What do you do?

    4. The "pods" or dividers between rooms allow little room for furniture to be placed up against them. They have interesting shelves and closets built into them so you don't need furniture taking up floor space.

    You love antiques and you have just inherited a large chest of drawers known as a "Highboy." Where do you put it? Can you even get it through the airplane-door thresholds?

    5. The stamped metal bathroom resembles an airplane bathroom-it is self-contained and quite small

    You are 8 ½ months pregnant with twins and your girth is considerable. It's impossible to turn around in this bathroom! Whoops!

    Designers offer solutions to problems in the objects they design and create for us. There's no question that "things" can change the way we live. The Dymaxion House could have, in all sorts of different ways, changed the ways we live. Think about how living in the Dymaxion House might change the way you live. And consider how your house affects the way you live within it.

    Nancy E. V. Bryk is a former curator at The Henry Ford.

    Additional Readings:

    design, Henry Ford Museum, home life, by Nancy E.V. Bryk, Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion House

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