Who bought the Aviodome?

Fatema Ahmed

I’ve been more or less living out of a suitcase for several months now, so when I saw that one of Europe’s first geodesic domes was for sale I rushed to bid for it with the last of my savings. The Aviodome, as the former National Aviation Museum at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was known, was designed by R. Buckminster Fuller and completed in 1971. With 2700 m2 of floor space, a radius of 34.14m and height of 23m, the aluminium dome at Schiphol was the largest of its time.

In 2003 the museum moved to a new building at Lelystad Airport, leaving the original Aviodome behind. The Living Gospel Church bought it the following year and the dome was dismantled and packed away into 29 containers in preparation for its move to Haarlemmermeer in North Holland. Dome watchers concerned that there was no sign of a reassembled dome (the website Waar is het Aviodome? – ‘Where is the Aviodome?’ – was set up in 2008) have had to wait until now for more news.

Unable to get permission to construct the dome, its owner is fed up of paying 700 euros a month for storage and at the beginning of November put the dome up for sale, asking for bids and a statement from interested buyers. I explained that I have always wanted to own a dome of my own; a structure of exceptional strength with a high ratio of enclosed area to surface; an ideal icosahedral home (office, too, possibly) that I was willing to share with others in exchange for a hand with assembling it, which looks quite daunting to judge by this video from 1971.

When I checked back the next day a sold sign had already gone up on the site. (I don’t know how my offer compared; I suspect it was on the low side.) If the new owner – I’m still trying to find out who it is and would be grateful for any leads – has made an impulse buy they now regret, Fuller’s 1969 book An Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth should provide the necessary encouragement. As the self-styled ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ says, ‘we begin by eschewing the role of specialists who deal only in parts. Becoming deliberately expansive instead of contractive, we ask: “How do we think in terms of wholes?” If it is true that the bigger the thinking becomes the more lastingly effective it is, we must ask: “How big can we think?”’


  • 27 November 2010 at 8:42pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    It just flew over my house in a north-easterly direction. Didn't pick up any signals so it must have been the an Irish banker making an escape.

  • 29 November 2010 at 2:18am
    outofdate says:
    If it's any consolation, they're rubbish, yet there seems to be a whole subculture of enthusiasts who regard them as the quintessential Beautiful Idea -- bold, simple, universally adaptable and magnificently practical, except not. Just the sort of thing secretive cranky billionaires go in for, so it's probably now warping and wasting power in Astana or Nebraska.

    Fuller seems to have been the Mr Magoo of anticipatory whatsits, to the point where I think not one of his adorable space-age predictions came true ('By 1990,' he'd declare, 'humans will be individually airborne.'), but that's better than undead Marshall McLuhan, who never got a prediction wrong and will still be chilling people to the marrow when everything we cherish has turned to dust.

    • 29 November 2010 at 9:31am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ outofdate
      Bucky Fuller's kind of snuck back into fashion again. For the man who has everything, Norman Foster's rebuilt himself a dymaxion car and then Arkitekt Grimshaw has dumped a huge bunch of domes in Cornwall and called it the Eden Project.

      Thank god they never covered midtown Manhattan with a dome. It would probably be ready for demolition now and everyone would be wondering how to get rid of it. I love this old picture of it: no structure is shown, just a big transparent, clean and shiny bubble.

    • 29 November 2010 at 11:18am
      outofdate says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      There we are: Lower Manhattan, now that would have been a vision, planes bouncing off it like toys.