(K-2-28) This is the first of our United States, Department of Commerce, Trade Fair domes. It was erected in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1957. The U.S. Department of Commerce came to me in an emergency and with a very small budget. We were given thirty days to design and produce this structure, which we succeeded in doing. It had to be so designed that it could be folded up and put into one DC-4, which was all that was available for that task. It had to be flown across the ocean to Afghanistan, accompanied by only one of my engineers. All its parts were color coded so that the Afghan people were able to erect it by putting the red end to the red hold on the hub and the blue to the blue, etc. The Afghans didn’t know what they were building at all. They thought it was meant to be a conventional rectilinear structure, but suddenly found they had produced a hemispherical structure. They were bogle [sic] eyed and excited. The workers began to shoot-the-shoots [sic] down the taut nylon-geon-skin of the dome. The king of Afghanistan acclaimed the dome.
World society is accustomed to the concept of an architectural design which is erected by skilled craftsmen who’s [sic] skill, a priori, permitted the architect to design the kind of building which the craftsmen build. It was up to the architect to keep in mind that which the craftsmen could build.
In the case of our Afghan dome, when the Afghan people saw that the Afghan workmen had put up a new dome structure they attributed its spherical success to the Afghans’ craft skill. They said to the Afghan workmen shooting the shoots down the dome, “You are good dome builders.” The workmen replied, “Yes we are” and the Afghans applauded. So they said it was obviously Afghan architecture–a modern plastic and aluminum super-yurt. This made our dome the hit of the Kabul 1957 Trade Fair and the U.S.A. Departmetn of Commerce who had originally taken on the dome only as a last minute emergency device to stay within budget yet meet a challenge decided to see if this unexpected geodesic virtue, of popular appeal, would meet with equal favor elsewhere. It did time and time again.
This is a picture of the same Afghan dome which being 100% demountable, without parts loss or deterioration, went on economically in disassembled condition successively by air to New Delhi, Bangkok, Burma, Tokyo, the Philippines, and then down to Lima, Peru, on the west coast of South America and is now back in Africa again. This geodesic dome is now on its second local-stop trip around the world by air. It now has many counterparts doing the same.
Buckminster Fuller, from World Design Science Decade 1965-1975, Document 2: Inventory of World Resources, Human Trends And Needs, 1963, pp. 78-9. [All WDSD documents are available for download at the Buckminster Fuller Institute.]
Previously: Welcome to the Kabul Dome
In Afghanistan Did Buckminster Fuller A Statecrafty Geodesic Dome Erect