Re: Copy of: Re: Domes for common houses -- or individuals
From: Vinay Gupta (
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 13:30:13 -0500
>       Are you familiar with Christopher Alexander's
>(no relation) books?  Domes typically violate the pattern
>"Structure follows social spaces."  Basically, that pattern
>says that you should decide what shape of space you need, then
>find a structure to enclose it, rather than find a structure, and
>changing your plans to fit that shape.  People don't typically
>come up with round floor plans, unless they're forced to.

I wonder, however, if much of that is just prior conditioning
and expectations about how houses are "supposed" to look.  Round
buildings are common in other cultures, for both small family
dwellings and larger shared building, and right here in north
america both Wikkiups and Tepis both have round floorplans.

One can clearly argue that these are just round for expidency:
ease of construction and resource efficiency, and I think that's 
certainly a big part of why round buildings are the shape they are.

But those are real factors too.

I personally feel that buildings shouldn't consume such a huge
percentage of our personal resources - that one of the metabolic
fires under americas overheated consumption is the culture which
sees the home as a huge lifetime investment, trapping a person
in the 9-5 culture so they can pay their mortgage off and pass
the place on to their kids.  Sometimes cheap housing is good housing
becaues what's paid for is owned, and a person can go back to 
doing what they want in life rather than plugging away to pay
off the remainder of their bricks and mortar.

>       Come to think about it, a round building violates a number
>of patterns in the book.  (Such as the shape of outdoor space,
>courtyards which live, light on two sides of every room, long thin
>house, and on and on.)

Hm...  these criteria, while the might form excellent social spaces,
violate a number of the rules-of-thumb for environmentally sound
building.  Long and thin buildings lose heat fast, as do corner
rooms with two exposed walls.  Courtyards are even worse, maximising
how much of the space is exposed to the elements.

Do these things matter?  Depends if one cuts and carries one's own
firewood, or plugs a chequebook into the national grid.

Similarly for materials utilisation: the amount of fine timber used
a long, thin house is much greater than than in a roughly-square one,
let alone a round one or a dome.  Simiarly again for the labour of

In an "unlimited resources" culture, I could easilly see the ease
with which a long, thin house could be layed out for easy social
spaces, division and grouping of function, flow of trafic and other
such considerations.

But if one has to pay for the thing?  I feel that's quite another

>       I can't recommend his books enough - especially "A Pattern
>Language" and it's predicessor "The Timeless Way of Building."

Hm... I shall see if I can find those at the library.

>       BTW, there's a dome storage building in the neighborhood
>where I'll be moving soon, and it doesn't look very good.  It doesn't
>match the other houses and ruins much more space around it (leftover
>corners too small to use) than it encloses.

Assuming, of course, that the lot one is building on is rectangular
and only slightly larger than the building.  As for building dones
in urban areas with lots of square houses around?  Yes, in that
setting, the look downright weird.  But then so does anything which
is out of the ordinary.  In rural areas, domes look fine and to my
eye are much less intrusive than other structures.

One of the other posts here mentioned the problems of expanding domes
as opposed to conventional buildings: that's one area where conventional
building has domes beat hands down, I'm afraid.  The conventional
dome builder's wisdom is "build it big enough to expand into" - usually
leaving lots of space as openplan on the upper floors, to be parcelled
into rooms at a later date: "internal expantion" if you will, but
it's hardly the same thing.

Still, nothing's perfect.


Vinay Gupta
Worldview Livingspace

(trying not to be commercial or partisan)

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