Why geodesic domes are amazing

1. They were made popular by a bizarre character called “Bucky”

He was expelled from Harvard. Twice. He was also a general in World War I, an entrepreneur, an inventor, an architect, and he popularized the Geodesic Dome. He didn’t really invent it, a German engineer did so. He did, however, get the American patent and plenty of US government contracts to use the dome to meet the growing housing demand in the 1940s.

As an entrepreneur and (half amusingly, half unfortunately) as a fanatic, he put lot of effort into promoting the domes. He believed that they would change the world by providing cheap housing, for example.

2. Geodesic structures are found everywhere in nature

Lysandra bellargus - Version 2I know you’re tempted to think the structure in the picture is a Chinese opera house or an English shopping mall, but it’s really the egg of the small Adonis Blue butterfly (Lysandra bellargus). Its geodesic design is suspiciously similar to that of Bucky’s domes, which might reignite the never-ending battles between patent-trolls and mother nature.Fly Eyes // Ohos de Mosca

As your high-school biology teacher would confirm, Adonis didn’t steal the design from Bucky. It happens that the geodesic design is so good at giving strength to structures, that nature is filled with these designs. Virus, flies and beehives also have those structures.


3. and are the past’s ‘structure of the future’

disneyEpcot, one of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, has one of the most recognizable geodesics in the world: Spaceship Earth. While Disney was trying to cook the books to buy the land for Walt Disney World, Disney was also eyeing Bucky’s designs. Bucky was so influential, that Walt Disney’s team even used Bucky’s own rhetoric. The words “Spaceship Earth” came from “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,” the title of a book by Bucky published in 1968. The very name Spaceship Earth shows the enthusiasm there was for geodesics.

To be the cool kid of the block, painting the garage into an intense red is not enough. Tearing down one’s boring four-walled house and putting in martian-looking ball is better. (And heck, Bucky thought about that too) Being cheap, lightweight, easy to assemble, easy to transport, and resistant to the elements, geodesic structures really were the structure of the future. He even had a whole curriculum for a Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science:

the effective application of the principles of science to the conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth’s finite resources meet the needs of all humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet.

IMG_4021Bucky’s looniness aside, his principles were pretty nifty, right? We, at the Reserve, identify with this “Design Science.” Not in a ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ kind of way. Rather, we simply agree with his views regarding design…and we built our very own Geodesic Dome as our Butterfly Preserve.


Diversity loss: so what?

The larvae of certain Heraclides butterflies that feed on the “Ajachel” or “Matasanos” tree (Casimiroa edulis) illustrate this well. This tree lends its name to Panajachel, our neighboring town.  In Kaqchikelpan” means “among” and “ajachel” the tree. A century ago matasanos were abundant in town. Nevertheless, today there are less than 30 extant trees in the valley of Panajachel and the butterfly is seldom seen. No trees no butterflies.

The Reserve has planted more than 4 thousand ajachel trees in the last 5 years, as part of an Atitlan watershed biodiversity protection plan.

Our Common Future

These are the materials displayed at the entrance to the Nature Reserve. They summarize the scientific knowledge regarding human actions and the processes of nature in the Atitlán watershed. These materiales can de copied and reproduced giving credit to the Atitlan Naure Reserve.


Acción humana/Human actions
Timeline for pollution
Cyanobacteria invasion
Salvemos el lago/Save the lake
Let’s save the lake
What's the watershed?
What’s the watershed?