Buckminister (Bucky) Fuller was born in 1895. He taught at NC’s Black Mountain College during the summers of 1948 and 1949. There, with the support of a group of professors and students, he began reinventing a project that would make him famous: the geodesic dome.
Although the geodesic dome was invented some 30 years earlier by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld, Fuller was awarded many US patents and is credited for making it popular. International recognition came from Fuller’s huge geodesic domes in the 1950s. Fuller taught at Washington University in St. Louis.
Fuller came to the NCSU School of Design many times and influenced T. C. Howard, who had a double major in architecture and engineering. Howard became part of Fuller’s dome enterprise, Synergetics Inc. and became owner when Fuller left in 1958.
Howard grew up in Denver NC and went to school at NCSU in Nuclear Engineering. He became an architect by passing the state architecture exam, establishing a reputation for brilliance that still endures.
In 1956, Synergetics was under contract to the United States Department of Commerce. They designed and test-built a 100-foot diameter trade fair pavilion dome in Raleigh. It was then flown to Kabul, Afghanistan and later used for trade fairs and expositions in South America, Africa, Europe and the Orient. That same year Synergetics designed and built what was at the time the world’s largest free-span structure, a 384-foot diameter geodesic dome in Baton Rouge, Louisiana constructed for the Union Tank Car Company as a facility to house and repair railroad cars.
Synergetics Inc.’s dome business boomed, including commissions for the St. Louis Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden, left. A 125-foot diameter hemisphere was designed for use by Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Ghana, and various other domes went to the Air Force Academy, the 1961 Seattle and 1964 New York World’s Fairs, and to Cleveland, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Niagara Falls.
Howard was also an owner of Charter Industries, Inc. that leased domes around the world. The domes at the NC Fairgrounds are portable Charter spheres.
Typically, domes are better suited as commercial rather than residential application. They can be erected on a moment’s notice, provide an instant venue, then packed up and on to the next town. More than 500,000 geodesic domes were built around the world and many are still in use.