Architecture does not restrict itself to construction of buildings with the stereotypical square or rectangular structures. Architecture also includes unconventional structures such as domes, which are buildings with hemispherical design, usually having a circular, square or octagonal base. Depending on the requirements of the construction, different types of domes such as geodesic domes, monolithic domes, or segmented domes are used. Among all the types, geodesic architecture or domes have been the most popular in several parts of the world.
One of the first residential dome structures was designed by Buckminster Fuller, an American architect who wanted a unique style of building that required limited time and materials for construction. As far as circulation of air and energy was concerned, the interiors of these semi-spherical structures proved to be the best among all other structures. Domes are devoid of any hindrance internally and allow the atmosphere to be heated and cooled in a natural way. In statistical language, domes take approximately thirty percent less energy for heating and cooling as the domes have close to thirty percent less surface area than other conventional or box shaped buildings. When additional heating is required, solar power can be used effectively by including an arc of windows.
The building materials required for constructing a geodesic dome structure are fewer compared to those required by other conventional structures. Thus it reduces costs for the builder. Unlike other structures that cover wide areas, construction of a dome consumes less time and less manpower. In addition to this, whether the domes are small or large, there is no need of additional walls and columns. Also, due to the least surface area for every unit of volume per structure, the influence of the weather conditions on the dome is negligible. Thus these buildings are light in weight, yet very strong in structure.
Domes are user friendly buildings that ensure survivability or longevity and are also environmentally friendly. The forces of compression and tension are mitigated by the designs, making them stronger. As domes are self supporting structures, they are a viable option for making houses, museums, or playgrounds. Domes also ensure safety from fire as concrete doesn’t burn. Moreover, in domes, the walls, floors and ceilings are continuous in structure which makes them termite proof. Domes are also said to be structures that can withstand a nuclear blast or resist radiation and that have the least of maintenance costs.
Dome architecture has both residential and commercial use as there are numerous options available for designing. Cathedrals, schools, taverns, and observatories are some of the buildings which use dome architecture. Domes are also used for various purposes, ranging from an exhibition or fair, an educational outdoor classroom, commercial community centre, an outdoor recreation hall, to a spa cover. Some of the famous domes in the world have been those of the Rome, such as the Panthean, and London’s Millennium Dome, and the Eden Domes, also in the United Kingdom. The world’s largest water park in Japan is also dome shaped– the Miyazaki Ocean Dome. The largest dome stadium in the world which is supported by cable is the Georgia Dome. Apart from these, the most versatile dome structure, the igloo, has been the oldest structure used by the Eskimos in the Polar Regions.
Apart from these, though there are a few considerations in dome shaped buildings such as making place for chimneys, fire escapes, and electrical wiring compared to other rectangular or square structures. Domes can resist adverse climatic conditions such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and flood easily. Moreover, dome structures have a very long life with an expected existence spanning over a hundred years.