A Vision for Falmouth’s Dome

Written by Laura M. Reckford


The Dome

The Dome in Woods Hole. CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

WOODS HOLE – “This is a very exciting moment for us,” said Nicole Goldman. “We are going to preserve and rehabilitate the Dome.”

In this world-renowned science hub, where any random toss of a test tube is liable to clonk a Nobel Prize winner, it comes as no surprise that a recent party to kick off the effort to save the R. Buckminster Fuller geodesic Dome that sits on a bluff above Woods Hole Road, would take place in the unapologetically contemporary home/art gallery/concert hall of Catherine Cramer, the granddaughter of FR Lillie, a zoologist who first came to this outpost at the tip of Falmouth in the 1890s and was one of the founders of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The home was designed by Cramer’s late husband, architect Thomas Hiksdal, and its sharp angles and light-filled rooms was somehow the perfect backdrop for a discussion of the Dome in Woods Hole and efforts to save it from demolition and turn it into an arts center.

Greg Watson, who is Director of Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, seemed to speak for many in the enthusiastic crowd when he said, “Bucky saved my life.” He went on to make the point that Fuller’s forward-thinking innovations made him a da Vinci of our time.

Allegra Fuller Snyder, Buckminster Fuller’s daughter, who is 89 and lives in New York City, recalled the night that Fuller conceived of the concept of a dome as a more efficient alternative to the traditional shape of a house.

Nicole Goldman of Woods Hole has led the effort to save the Dome and turn it into an arts center. An application for non-profit status is in the works but until then, a local nonprofit called Arts Falmouth, which puts on an annual arts festival in June and a jazz festival in the fall, is serving as an umbrella organization for the nascent organization, which is called The Dome of Contemporary Arts.

Nicole Goldman, who is heading up the effort to preserve the Dome in Woods Hole and turn it into an arts center, holds up a model of a geodesic dome. CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

Buckminster Fuller was commissioned to build the Dome by a Falmouth architect Gunnar Petersen, who wanted to use the unique building as a restaurant. Summer science students were used to craft the Woods Hole Dome in 1953.

It is, according to Goldman, the oldest existing Fuller Dome anywhere in the world.

The idea had some legs. By the time of Buckminster Fuller’s death in 1983, according to Fuller’s daughter Allegra, there were an estimated 300,000 geodesic domes on the planet.

Recent efforts to save the Dome have arisen in the past year. A developer planning to demolish the 1950s motel next to the Dome controls the site and is planning an upscale housing development overlooking the harbor.

Allegra Fuller Snyder speaks about her father at an event in Woods Hole to kick off the effort to save the Dome. CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

But Goldman and others are taking steps to pursue their vision. A feasibility study is underway, she said, and other professionals are working on a strategy to save the building and convert it into an interdisciplinary exhibition center for the presentation of visual and performing arts.

The party at Cramer’s house was followed by a screening of a movie inspired by Fuller that was being shown at the Woods Hole Film Festival.

“House of Tomorrow,” directed by Peter Livolsi, is based on a book by the same name by Peter Bognanni.

Greg Watson of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, speaks about “Bucky” Fuller. CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

After the film, Allegra Fuller Snyder said this was her third time seeing the movie and each time she is left with a different impression. This time, she said, was left wishing that the ending was more conclusive that the boy in the film, who grows up in a Fuller dome under the tutelege of his grandmother, a Fuller acolyte, is more definitely influenced by Bucky Fuller’s vision of changing the world for the better.

Livolsi, standing by, said, helpfully, perhaps they can reshoot the ending.


More about The Woods Hole Dome from Cape Cod Wave… The Dome in Woods Hole, Buckminster Fuller’s Aging Futuristic Building

And also: An Inside Look at the Woods Hole Dome — VIDEO Tour

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About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

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