History of a Dome
In August of 1953, a group of young people assembled in Woods Hole, Massachusetts to build a modest structure on a wooded knoll. They came from diverse backgrounds and from across the country, and they each came inspired by, and dedicated to, the vision of the project’s creative progenitor, R. Buckminster Fuller.
The Woods Hole Dome was commissioned by Falmouth architect and aspiring hotelier E. Gunnar Peterson to provide the dining space for the restaurant of the Nautilus Motor Inn. The dome opened in 1954 to tremendous fanfare in the community, and although it was initially derided a modern interloper on traditional Cape Cod, the Woods Hole dome survived early criticism and operated as a successful restaurant for decades. Over those decades, the Dome ultimately became a rather beloved fixture in the village, a destination for special dinners, and a highlight for tourists.
Unfortunately, the Woods Hole dome has an uncertain future, having fallen into disuse and disrepair since 2002 when the restaurant closed. The dome, which is the first permanent wood member dome structure that was directly overseen by Buckminster Fuller, stands today as the oldest extant structure credited to Fuller, and it is in a precarious state of preservation.
To learn more about the dome’s history, construction, and structure, we invite you to see the following papers, authored by Robert Mohr (Dome board member) and Joseph Swerdlin. These were presented at the 2018 International Symposium of IASS (The International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures) in Cambridge MA in July of 2018.
Construction and History of Fuller’s Timber Dome at Woods Hole, by Joseph Swerdlin