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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

The Dymaxion House: The Same and Improved

March 17, 2014 Archive Insight

In early February, the Conservation Department did its yearly inspection of the Dymaxion House with the assistance of Historic Operating Machinery Specialist Tim Brewer. As you’ll recall, it is truly a “tension” structure; the “cage” actually hangs the house off of the central mast. Every year we compare measurements of the cage rings to see what might be out of alignment. We also measure the tension on critical cables and adjust them as necessary.

I am pleased to report that our repairs from two years ago are holding up well. We learned from our engineering study last year that the expected longevity of the repaired beams is excellent. We continue to monitor for any new cracks both visually and with permanently installed wire gauges.

Things went so well with the regular inspection that we were able to make a few improvements.

We installed our prototype version of the “neoprene gutter”. This is the sheet-rubber trough located above the windows inside the house. It was supposed to collect water that would trickle down from the u-shaped “carlins” supporting the roof and carry it to a tank under the house via the black downspout near the back kitchen door.

Museum Presenter Simon Mused shows the black neoprene gutter inside the Dymaxion House.

lightswitchDuring our original restoration of the house back in 2000, we decided not to attempt the gutter. Although we found various design plans by Buckminster Fuller’s engineers, we had no proof that they were successful. It was probably one of the “unfinished details” that Bucky was doggedly trying to solve and that eventually helped to scuttle the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine company back in 1946. Yet without that internal gutter, the rain-collection function of the carlins (the U-shaped roof supports) was difficult to interpret. We're happy with our new mock-up gutter.

The new light-color-changing switch located under the “ovolving shelves” is working well, too. The color of the light can be changed. This was a feature that Buckminster Fuller wrote about while he was designing the house.

Clara Deck is Senior Conservator at The Henry Ford. Clara was part of the original team that restored the Dymaxion House at Henry Ford Museum and is still caring for it 13 years after it opened to the public.

Additional Readings:

engineering, conservation, collections care, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, Henry Ford Museum, by Clara Deck, Buckminster Fuller, Dymaxion House

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