Museum getting a massive geodesic dome with 61 glass eyes

  • This computer illustration provided by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on Dec. 28, 2016, shows a rendering of how inventor Buckminster Fuller's Fly's Eye Dome will look when installed on museum grounds in Bentonville, Ark. The museum recently told its patrons it intends to construct the futuristic dome in the summer of 2017. (Jessi Mueller/Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art via AP) Jessi Mueller

  • A 24-foot version of inventor Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome on display in Miami’s Design District is shown. A 50-foot version of the futuristic dome is scheduled to be installed on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., in the summer of 2017. AP file

Associated Press
Friday, December 30, 2016

A massive geodesic dome with 61 glass eyes is coming to Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The structure, called Fly’s Eye Dome, was designed by the late Buckminster Fuller, who was known for his futuristic inventions and who hoped it would revolutionize housing. Museum curators say Fuller was inspired to design the dome after looking at a photo of a fly’s eye.

The dome will join a 1950s home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that became part of the museum’s collection in 2015. Demonstrating innovation in American architecture is part of the museum’s mission.

The 50-foot-wide Fly’s Eye Dome, made of glass and fiberglass, will appear on the museum’s north lawn like a massive golf ball caught in the grass.

“It is shocking and people are going to go, ‘What is that?’ ” said Dylan Turk, a curatorial assistant at Crystal Bridges who worked on the Wright installation. “Hopefully, they’ll go out there and want to know what it is.”

He said the dome “marks an incredible moment in American architecture history – innovation and thinking outside the box.”

Wright’s and Fuller’s homes provide different perspectives on how to be at one with nature. Wright’s Bachman-Wilson home, with a prominent glass wall, immerses visitors into the landscape along Bentonville’s Crystal Spring.

Fuller’s home features 61 “oculi,” or eyes, through which to see the world. More than 11 dozen panels – most of them triangles – fill the spaces between the eyes.

“We have an actual piece of paper where he had a picture of a fly that he had found in a newspaper in the ’60s,” Turk said. “He saw it and thought, ‘The structure of this fly’s eye could become one of my type of domes.’ He was literally looking at a fly’s eye.”

Three prototypes were built before Fuller died in 1983. The 50-footer was previously displayed at the Los Angeles Bicentennial celebration in 1981 and at the Festival International d’Art in Toulouse, France, in 2013. The other two were 24 and 12 feet wide.

In an announcement to patrons in its magazine C, the museum said Fuller considered his design a way to address global housing needs through “a beautiful, fully equipped, air-deliverable house that weighs and costs about as much as a good automobile.”