Domes and Pattern Languages
From: Thomas Alexander (
Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 16:33:55 -0500

>>[Do people not come up with round floor plans because of]
prior conditioning and expectations about how houses are
"supposed" to look.<<
        Check out A Pattern Language and ask this question again.

>>Wikkiups and Tepis both have round floorplans.<<
        Don't know about Wikkiups, but don't tepis have very
few rooms per building?  They were also working with quite a bit
of land per family, so they could afford to waste some.  Further,
weren't they basically temporary structures?

>>I personally feel that buildings shouldn't consume such a huge
percentage of our personal resources<<
        Land costs money too.  You've got to make good use of it.

>> these criteria, while the might form excellent social spaces,
violate a number of the rules-of-thumb for environmentally sound
        Really?  Should we sacrifice good places for this?  Are
unsuitable places which use less material (or whatever the advantages
of domes may be) better than places which actually meet our needs?
I'm not talking about opulence.  I'm talking about making the most
of what you have by making the building actually function well.
        You say later that domes are not suited for urban situations?
Is it sustainable for even more people to move out of the cities?

>>Long and thin buildings lose heat fast...<<
        The pattern "Long Thin House" is meant, fundamentally,
to solve the problem of making a house feel spacious with limited
resources available.  With a circle floorplan, you're stuck in
the room next door to your housemates.  You can't go to the other
end of the house if you need some time alone.
        It might be worth a little more heat - or you could make
up the difference with more insulation and build a smaller, yet
larger feeling house.

>>as do corner rooms with two exposed walls.<<
        You don't need a corner room to get "Light on Two Sides
of Every Room."

>>Courtyards are even worse, maximising how much of the space is
exposed to the elements.<<
        If it triples the usable space in your home, wouldn't
it be worth it?  One side of the courtyard could be a neighbor's
house or a garage or something else, too.

>>Depends if one cuts and carries one's own
firewood, or plugs a chequebook into the national grid.<<
        Is firewood sustainable?  (Not that I'm against it myself,
but historically, some countries cleared entire forrests for firewood.)
        We do agree, however, that domes are more suited for isolated
situations than for high density, (though I would include cohousing as
"high density.)

>>the amount of fine timber used a long, thin house is much greater<<
        Alexander, incidentally, is against the use of timber for
building houses.

>>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.<<
        I think you missed the point.  I'm saying that although you
say a dome costs half as much as a conventional home, I'm saying
that since the spaces both inside and outside the dome are forced
to comply with the shape of the dome, rather than vice-versa, the
dome has less than half the utility (usefulness?) of a conventional
home (in any application my narrow mind can imagine.)  You're paying
less, getting less, and wasting land, another limited resource.

        BTW, my town library doesn't have the books, but I was
able to get them on inter-library loan.


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