installations (“radomes”), emergency shelters, and mobile housing. They were and are also used for weather stations, industrial workshops, and greenhouses. One was even proposed for a cinema, in collaboration with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


Geodesic dome, United States Pavilion at Expo 67, Montreal, Canada; R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, architects, 1967.

Fuller’s magnum opus is the former United States Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada, designed with Shoji Sadao. The huge, lacy dome, framed with steel pipes enclosing 1,900 molded acrylic panels, has a diameter of 250 feet (76.5 meters) and stands 200 feet (60 meters) high, “weightless against the sky.” It has been adapted by Environment Canada and the city of Montreal and is now known as the Biosphere, an environmental water-monitoring center on the St. Lawrence River.

Further reading

Pawley, Martin. 1990. Buckminster Fuller. London: Trefoil.

Rosen, Sidney. 1969. Wizard of the Dome: R. Buckminster Fuller, Designer for the Future. Boston: Little, Brown.

Sieden, Lloyd Steven. 2000. Buckminster Fuller’s Universe: An Appreciation. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

German Pavilion

Barcelona, Spain

The German Pavilion at the Barcelona Universal Exhibition of 1929, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is the first built expression of what he called “the architecture of almost nothing.” About a decade earlier he had designed projects for multistory tower blocks, crystal prisms whose uninterrupted glass skins enveloped slender steel frames. They were just ideas, but the Barcelona Pavilion, as it is popularly known, set a standard—some would say, generated a fashion—for the austere minimalist architecture that would be dubbed the International