Buckminster Fuller’s first Dymaxion House, sketched out in 1927, was a hexagonal design suspended from a central mast.
By 1945, when Fuller entered into an agreement with Beech Aircraft Corporation to mass produce the house, its plan was circular. Asked later about the Dymaxion House’s unusual form, Fuller said that functional rather than aesthetic considerations determined his choice. “We did nothing arbitrary,” he emphasized. “We were not trying to make a cute house. Its shape is due to the solution of our problems of space, weight and mass production.”
Unveiled with much fanfare in early 1946 to a public hungry for solutions to post-WW II housing shortages and to a news media entranced by high tech, futuristic design, the house garnered enormous media attention. Laudatory articles ran in the New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and countless local papers; a photo of the house made the cover of Fortune magazine.
In interviews at the time, Fuller was confident about his design’s future, saying that he expected the Beech Aircraft factory to produce some 50,000 Dymaxion Houses by the end of 1947. His company, Fuller Houses, Inc., reportedly received at least 37,000 sales inquiries from members of the public in the first few months after the house was launched. According to an expert at the Henry Ford Museum — which now exhibits the only remaining exemplar of the house — Mayor Hubert Humphrey of Minneapolis opened negotiations for 2,500 Dymaxion Houses to solve the city’s housing deficit.
But the momentum didn’t last. Pressed to make cost-saving compromises to his design, Fuller balked. As the New York Times later explained, “he demanded more time for research and development, and resisted all the efforts of stockholders, friends and supporters to put the Dymaxion House on the market. In the end, the delays and wrangling proved fatal. Lacking the $10 million required to tool up for production, Fuller Houses collapsed.”
Just two prototype Dymaxion Houses were ever built. In 1948 a former Fuller Houses investor bought and combined them into a single, hybrid structure, the only Dymaxion House that ever functioned as a dwelling. Although by 1950 the news media called the Dymaxion concept the “Forgotten House,” the family that lived in the house stayed there for decades.