The great visionary, inventor, and designer, Buckminster Fuller developed the geodesic dome of triangular space frames to enclose the greatest amount of space with the least amount of materials. I had become a Fuller fan the last semester of college in Austin and read whatever I could find about him and his inventions. I had been exploring some issues with house design - how to incorporate a dome and how to prevent a house from cracking as it settled. Normally a house sits on a slab (prone to cracking or piers and beams - numerous piers that each settle into the earth at a different rate - thus cracking). To prevent settling I realized a house sitting on only three legs would not crack if one leg settled or sunk at a rate different from the others. Same logic for camera and surveyor tripods - the base will always be perfectly stable.
The tripod house
So maybe that would work with a house. If one leg settles, the house may tilt but it won't crack. Supporting an entire house, however, on only three points presents an engineering challenge - how to build a structure that will support enough square footage. Again, I went to Fuller and his use of the space frame - a large beam or joist made of triangular forms - the triangle being the most stable shape in design and engineering. The walls of the house are large space frames. Because this house rests only on three legs, it is ideal for inaccessible locations - rocky hillsides, slanted terrain, or where a homeowner wants to make a minimal footprint on the earth. The three concrete columns would probably need to be poured on site but the house framework could be airlifted in - if the location does not allow for easy access.
Within the truss framework that provides stability for the house and support for the rooftop dome are the private living spaces - bedrooms and bathrooms. Also at this level are a den or media room and the entry to the house.
The Fuller dome encloses the main living spaces - living, dining, and kitchen. The dome is clad mostly in glass for views and light. Over the kitchen is a loft space for lounging, viewing, and conversing. There is also access to three decks over each of the wings of the support structure.
Poem about the Tripod House
Welcome to this place,
Please, forget time,
And enjoy the space.
Concept and sketches: March 1979
Floor plan, main level
Designed and model built: March 31 - April 14, 1979