Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome Rises in Miami

Palm Court is the first phase of the ambitious expansion of the Miami Design District – creating a ground-breaking retail destination amid a community dedicated to art and design.  As the master architect for Palm Court, SB Architects has been tasked with creating the architectural skeleton for the four block project – defining the building structures and the movement of people through space that are critical in creating a cohesive and entirely original experience. An important part of that process is coordinating the work of individual architects and artists as they design the 40-foot retail facades, and incorporating the public artwork that will be on display throughout the project.

Palm Court is bisected by Paseo Ponti – a central, 30-foot-wide pedestrian paseo that will culminate in grand plazas at either end. In the two plazas, and throughout the re-designed district, public art pieces will be on display. One of the most impressive is a recreation of Buckminster Fuller’s 24-foot Fly’s Eye Dome. Craig Robins, Dacra’s President and CEO, owns one of just three prototypes in existence, and first introduced it to the City of Miami at the 2011 Design Miami exhibition called “Architecting the Future.” The dome in Palm Court is a faithful re-creation of that prototype, created by Goetz Composites in Bristol, R.I., working in collaboration with the Buckminster Fuller Institute.


Buckminster Fuller's Dome

The  dome sits at the south end of the Paseo Ponti, set upon a plinth in the middle of a reflecting pool. However, rather than simply celebrating the dome as a piece of artwork, the design team chose to utilize it as a functional space. It serves as a light source for the parking level below, a grand entry point, and an eyeglass to amplify the visitor’s view of the court. As visitors emerge from the parking level, they can stop and take in the view of Palm Court through the dome’s many lenses.

“Buckminster Fuller invented the dome as a ‘machine for living’ – he intended it to be used,” declares Giovanni Medina Marenco, senior designer on the project. “By placing it prominently in the plaza and using it to connect– via a grand circular stairway clad in white marble – to the parking below, we invite people to come in and enjoy the space that Buckminster Fuller created.”

Palm Court Dome Installation-SB Architects-01Watch a time lapse video of the installation here.

R. Buckminster Fuller was a 20th century inventor and visionary who spent his life working across multiple fields – architecture, design, mathematics, science, engineering and education –  calling himself a “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist” as he pursued his dream of making the earth a better place for all humans. He described himself as a “maverick thinker” and a “gentle revolutionist.”

As a global thinker, Buckminster Fuller was ahead of his time – his holistic approach, doctrine of efficiency and concern for the environmental consequences of design ring especially true today. Originally envisioned as a futuristic, low-cost shelter, the geodesic dome was one of his most iconic structures – efficient by enclosing the largest volume of interior space using the smallest surface area, and beautiful because of its true nature.