The Specs


Stages of the Wichita Dymaxion House Under Construction (left to right)
1) Building of the platform
2) Positioning of compression rings and tensile wires
3) Placing the roof gores
4) Lifting the ventilation cap into place 
Images courtesy of the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller

The Wichita House was a circular structure, suspended from a central mast by 12 cables anchored to the ground. The structure’s walls and windows were all circular leading up to a domed roof giving it a naturally streamlined form, efficient for atmospheric control. Within the peak of the dome was an 18ft wide hooded sheet-metal ventilator that controlled air flow within the building through “air flow patterns”. The system provided the house with natural air conditioning, heating and heat loss prevention, hurricane and wind resistance under any weather conditions. Since the ventilator drew in and expelled outside air, the Plexiglas windows were made inoperable. Internally, the shell was divided into cubic rooms with low doorways that trap the air circulating around the home, creating naturally formed pockets and drifts of heat. 

Article featured in 1932 issue of Modern Mecanix

Each of its aluminum, steel and Plexiglas components was prefabricated using aircraft tools and assembly line methods and shipped on site. In addition, each of these components was limited to 10lb meaning that the house could be erected by a single person.  In total, the entire house weighed approximately 3 tons, which was novel compared to the average American home’s weight (approximately 150 tons). All of the components could fit in a single helicopter building was assembled without the aid of nails, screws or cement and all metals used were non-oxidizing so no paint was necessary to coat the house. The all-comprehensive bathroom system (which included ventilation, heating and lighting) could be taken out and plugged in from house to house as it was fixed together during assembly and only needed to be connected to the structure itself. The toilets needed no water as wastes were mechanically sealed and packaged for chemical uses. Rainwater was collected into gutters via the roof system for storage.

Size and Scale

In prior renditions, Fuller toyed with a wide range of scales for various programs. Back when 4D was still the brand name for his homes, he imagined a tower ranging from over from 12 to 25 stories. His 20-Worker's Home, though smaller than the tower, rested at around 2000 square feet. Later, he designed the Dymaxion Deployment Unit, meant to house a single family at a quarter of the area of the 20-Worker's Home, though multiple units could be joined for more space.

Image courtesy of

For the last prototype of the Dymaxion House, Buckminster Fuller settled at just over 1000 square feet. Although this is would presently be considered meagre in size, it was approximately the size of the average single family home at the time. This served to emphasize Buckminster Fuller's intent on marketing to the masses, while following the "more with less" ideology of his 'Dymaxion' series of projects; it would serve to fit the average household, no less, no more.


The Dymaxion house was designed to be constructed and distributed en masse. Like a vehicle, the house was meant to be affordable and able to be delivered anywhere. Fuller designed the house to be packaged in cylinders for easy transportation and assembly. It was a very light house, made of aluminum, especially considering brick was the material most commonly used for single detached homes at the time. Furthermore, it had no foundation aside from a single central pole that was shallowly struck into the ground. The first floor was elevated a short distance from this central pole. An aluminum spiral stair case provided the only means of circulation between levels within the home.
All of these design specifications emphasized the detachment the Dymaxion House was to have to its site. As the house was to be distributed wherever it could be sold, it needed to be geographically and topographically neutered. No local stone, nor local wood: the house would be prefabricated purely out of aluminum in any number of the airplane factories left over from the war. It was light, to the point where a rudder was needed to ensure wind would not blow the house away as it barely touched the ground. The house was even dimensionally neutral. The circular shape was not indicative of any kind of lot in particular, nor any specific landscape.

William Graham's hybrid Dymaxion House in Wichita, Kansas shortly after it was built in 1948

The Wichita House was a hybridized version of two of Fuller’s projects: the Barwise and Danbury prototypes to make a two storey house with a full basement. It was built in a 600 acre site in Andover, Kansas, a small waterfront town surrounded by farmland. The two prototypes were never actually assembled, but rather, were won in a law suit by William Graham with the collapse of Fuller Houses Inc., Fuller’s mass housing production enterprise. In 1946, Fuller resigned as Chairman and Chief engineer from the company due to overwhelming pressure from colleagues to finalize the design and immediately begin production. However, Fuller was taking far too long perfecting his inventions, leading to dissention within the company. Although the same streamlined exterior dome shape and original materials were maintained, the interior of the home was drastically modified to meet Graham’s needs.

Interior stone walls in the basement of Graham's hybrid Dymaxion House
The house had a panoramic view of its quaint, rural surroundings, creating a sense of intimacy between its inhabitants and the landscape through visual integration. Unlike earlier prototypes, the Wichita House offered a more sophisticated solution to the idea of surveillance: instead of an entirely transparent structure, like that of earlier prototypes, it had lightly tinted Plexiglas windows to inhibit glare. Due to rapid technological advances in alloy chemistry and metallurgy during the war, the Wichita House was a much more economically, labor and environmentally efficient structure than its predecessors. The 22 foot mast that carried the weight of the entire home weighed only 72 pounds. The mechanics of the household, which encompassed all of the atmospheric control of the home, were all centralized around these 3 tubes. Compared the steep pitch of the original 1927 home, the curved compound roof of the Wichita house has a compression/tension system of 12 members anchored to the ground. However, instead of being mobile and suspended in the air, this time the house had a permanent foundation. The lower level opened up to a porch and the Arkansas river, as opposed to the original inwardly focused aluminum structure. The stone steps that led down to the porch further embedded the Wichita house into the riverside.The living space was less dynamic than that of the Deployment Unit that had the potential to serve versatile functions. Instead, the Wichita house was designed to be a family dwelling including 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, an entry hall and a garage. Although many of the house’s design f remained intact, the Graham family added expansive stone walls and additional glazing. Thus, with the addition of these features as well as the heavy basement, “the compact, change resistant capsule was brought down to earth and irreparably tied to the ground.” In short, it became the opposite of what its architect intended it to be.

The Wichita House three decades after it was built, Fuller's Dwelling Machine is now barely recognizable due to the Graham family's extensive renovations

Wichita had experienced a population boom during the war as a major airplane manufacturer for Boeing.The house was built in the same area that it was likely fabricated. Over time, Graham went on to add further additions to the Wichita House, like stone walls around the lower floor, and lived in the house for forty or so years. In the 1990s the house was moved to the Henry Ford Museum and stripped of all additions to allow the public to better understand Fuller's original idea. There, it is a footnote in history, an idea of houses distributed like cars that never took off.

Environmental Considerations

The Dymaxion House would not be what it was without the numerous considerations Buckminster Fuller added into the design. Climate conditions were a major factor; if the house was to be shipped everywhere, it had to be able to withstand any condition.
These are the ways Buckminster Fuller dealt with possible weather conditions the house was expected to face:

              The round shape and the rooftop fin gave the Dymaxion House the aerodynamic form to survive a tornado that passed by a few hundred metres in 1964.

               The round plan also minimized the surface area of the house exposed to the elements.

               Aircraft metal alloys had been engineered to be stronger and more corrosion resistant. Buckminster used the same alloys.

               The roof did not need to be replaced like shingles do. The aluminum fabric reflected radiant heat, diffused lighting inside, and deflected drips of condensation.

               A gutter collected water dripping down the outside of the house, as well as water that condensed on the underside of the roof.

               The mast was stiffened by tightened cables similar to the masts of sailboats.

Authored by: Terry Huang and Isabel Ochoa
Edited by: Isabel Ochoa