Visit the Dymaxion House — Buckminster Fuller’s only remaining prototype from 1945

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford.

historic-houseOf all the mid-century historic houses I’d like to visit, Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House — which has been reassembled inside the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. — is at the very top of my list. This is the only known prototype of Bucky’s dream home, envisioned as a solution to provide affordable housing to the masses after World War II. The Museum acquired the house in 1991 and over the next decade restored the priceless relic. The Dymaxion House — which was officially known as The Dymaxion Dwelling House — was opened to the public in 2001.

YOWZA! Old newsreel footage. I love the internet!

“Comprehensive, anticipatory design scientist”

Buckminster Fuller is such a fascinating person. He had to have been one of the most genius minds of the 20th century… According to his daughter, he identified himself as a “comprehensive, anticipatory design scientist.” He is most famous for working with the geodesic dome. He coined the term “spaceship Earth”… and the word “synergy.”

The CBS Sunday Morning segment above is an excellent introduction and includes great shots of the Dymaxion house — including in a proposed subdivision. What do you think, did we miss out? Would you like to live in Dynamaxion Village?

Dymaxion House circa 1960 in Wichita, Kansas. Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford.

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Dwelling Machine

The Museum says:

Conceived and designed in the late 1920’s but not actually built until 1945, the Dymaxion House was Fuller’s solution to the need for a mass-produced, affordable, easily transportable and environmentally efficient house. The word “Dymaxion” was coined by combining parts of three of Bucky’s favorite words: DY (dynamic), MAX (maximum), and ION (tension). The house used tension suspension from a central column or mast, sold for the price of a Cadillac, and could be shipped worldwide in its own metal tube. Toward the end of WW II, Fuller attempted to create a new industry for mass-producing Dymaxion Houses.

The story gets pretty fascinating. Fuller created a company to try and produce the house. But only two prototypes were made before the company collapsed over creative differences. An investor, William Graham, purchased the two prototypes and in 1948, incorporated at least one of them into a house he built for his family in Wichita, Kansas. The family lived in the house into the 1970s and in 1991, donated the Dymaxion to the Henry Ford Museum.

Dymaxion house
Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford.

The Dymaxion House was built of aluminum. Fuller chose this material because it was light to transport, strong enough to withstand a Kansas tornado, and because after World War II, there were aircraft manufacturing facilities with capacity to manufacture it.

The house was  “designed to be about 1,100 square feet or about the size of a small Cape Cod-style bungalow. It was supposed to cost about $6,500 in 1946.” The efficient and ingenious layout held “two bedrooms, foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen, kitchen storage, stainless steel fireplace, optional folding stairs to the balcony, accordion doors, O-Volving shelves, revolving shoe and clothes rack, tie and hat rack, and the Dymaxion bathroom.”

The Dymaxion House design at the Henry Ford was adapted from an earlier prototype designed in the 1920s. Watch the video from the Whitney Exhibit in 2008, and it appears that the original prototype had some distinct differences. Including that it would be delivered by zeppelin… which would first drop a bomb to create a crater-foundation!


Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford.

Hey-Wake in the Bucky living room 🙂

mid century house museums

See The Dymaxion House on our epic list of 59 mid-century & modern historic house museums you can visit

“Everybody is an astronaut… You all live aboard a beautiful little spaceship — called Earth.” – Buckminster Fuller

Link love:

  1. anne says:

    I have been to this exhibit and toured the home. If you happen to be in the Detroit Metro area, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are very much worth a visit. The Dymaxion is worth walking through, but my impression was something along the lines of “I would never want to live in this old, claustrophobia-inducing, dusty tin can.” Zero privacy, awkwardly shaped rooms. There is a reason that these homes, as well as his car, never caught on. They are duds that only a central planner enamored of his own genius, would love. Neat for a museum piece to illustrate the history of the mid century fetish for standardization, efficiency, and mass production. The opposite of a cozy and practical home.

  2. vegebrarian says:

    There is a novel that came out a few years ago called The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni, about a teen and his grandmother who live in one of Fuller’s domes. I had a good time searching for photos of geodesic domes after I read it.

  3. Janice says:

    Whodda thought that something so forward looking and thinking would be in Wichita, Kansas where I happen to live?! How did I miss knowing this? I guess it was because I didn’t give a hoot about mid century design back then. Not sure I would want to live in this, but I do appreciate the creativity of this home and can imagine that it is much more energy efficient. Thanks for another educational read!

    P.S. I know that Whodda isn’t a real word. 🙂

    1. Jay says:

      Yes, us loyal RR fans don’t give a hoot, we always make up words. The grammar and historical accuracy police need to troll elsewhere and leave us to celebrate MC design.

  4. Scott says:

    The Henry Ford is a wonderous place. I have visited three times and was able to walk through the Dymaxion House on my last trip. The bathroom concept is a spooky but I sure love the idea of having all your clutter tucked neatly inside the walls.

    One of my other favorite things there is the big collection of neon including a (gasp) Holiday Inn Great Sign.

  5. Jeff says:

    Live between The Henry Ford Museum and Cranbrook Academy, and count myself as fortunate as it gets when it comes to fabulous mid century modern architecture and artifacts. The Dymaxion House is indeed worth a pilgrimage, as is the entire museum/Greenfield Village. Detroit as the center of the American design world for decades, and still a major player has some of the best art and architecture from Saarinen, to Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Kahn, the Eames’, and so much more.

  6. SCPeach84 says:

    I think that this Dymaxion home was pretty amazing! I haven’t yet been able to see it in person but can’t wait to. I saw the history of it and a complete walk through of it on Henry Ford’s I novation Nation. It had my attention from the start. The design is lightyears beyond the time of its invention. It’s amazing!

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