1964 Styrofoam dome house built by Robert Schwartz, a student of Buckminster Fuller

dome house made of dow corp. styrofoam

Here’s an amazing time capsule house, first spotted by Retro Ruth of No Pattern Required: The 1964 Dome House in Midland, Michigan — now for sale for the first time since it was built by the original owners, architect Robert Schwartz and his wife Barbara. Robert Schwartz was a student of Buckminster Fuller, father of the geodesic dome.  According to this informative story in the Midland Daily News, which gave me permission to feature a few of their photos:

living room of dome house by protege of buckminster fullerThe shell of the house is made of foam — Styrofoam, manufactured by The Dow Chemical Co., which furnished the foam in exchange for cost information from Mr. Schwartz, who already had considered the concept of a hemispherical abode. At the prompting of his college mentor, R. Buckminster Fuller, Schwartz pursued the idea and Dow agreed to the experimentation. Schwartz was one of a handful of students Fuller was using to design geodesic domes for U.S. Marines Corps housing. In this case, the domes were made of cardboard and airlifted by helicopters.

kitchen in dome house influenced by buckminster fullerDow had developed a “spiral generation” machine that allowed for “spinning” a dome from Styrofoam. The machine rotated long pieces of four-inch thick Styrofoam in a circular manner that eventually became a dome. The foam was bound together with intense heat. A layer of concrete averaging two inches thick was sprayed on the dome using the Gunite method. The exterior was finished with a coat of Dow acrylic paint and a coat of Dow Corning Corp. sealant. It took only 14 hours to spin the … dome….

office in dome house made of dow chemical styrofoamThe story also points out that because its construction and materials, the house is very energy efficient. Well, what’s old is new again: Let’s build more of these, that Buckminster Fuller was a genius!

Where to see more photos, and additional links:

  • Midland Daily News story. Thanks also, Kevin Prior, for permission to show a few of your photos.
  • The real estate listing includes more photos (link now broken but redirects here) — the price, $325,000 — and a link to the realtor if you are in the market. This house is dreamy!

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This is such a fantastic house. I love everything about it except I might change a couple of colors here and there. I love the carpet going up the stairs and the way the light fills all the space. The clean lines of this 60’s Architecture fills me with Joy! When I was little I wanted to grow up and live in a house like this. So fantastic! It truly is a time capsule and one that I am overjoyed that I stumbled upon. I hope that whoever buys this house doesn’t change much about it. It needs to remain as it is. Thank you so much for the video! You made my day!

  2. gsciencechick says:

    This is awesome! It looks move-in ready. So many cool features. Love the royal purple carpet on the stairs.

  3. Shea says:

    I love this house. I am very interested in the styro. and the machine that made it. Can it be done with post consumer plastics? Will Dow allow the use of this tech. for future construction? I was very impressed that it only took 14 hours to complete the exterior of the the house. I have always been a big fan of domes and hope to own one.

  4. gabby says:

    Being a native Californian, I’ve been in my share of schlocky ill-designed dome interiors. I’m not against domes per se, just haven’t found most of them too pleasant inside.

    I recant my former position. This house is gorgeous inside and out. The open plan downstairs has the best of what good MCM offers-almost seamless transition to the outdoors. The issue with domes is usually what happens around the edges, but this house nails it! I love the expansive wrap around desks in each of the upstairs bedrooms. They look super practical, but also inviting. And I can think of a zillion things to do with that awesome 3rd story in the dome.

    This one is really neat. I’d love to feel what it’s like to look out in the winter. Come to think of it all that organic white-it-tude would look pretty cool in the snow from outside as well.
    Very, very well done.

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