Golden Onion Dome Proposal


Image courtesy of International Dome Symposium

  The Dome symposium was created through an application by the City of Winooski to the Federal Government. The thought was to put a dome over the entire city of Winooski. Interest rose from many areas including the press, dome manufacturers, scientists, and citizens. On March 26 and 27, 1980 the symposium was held to determine if Federal funding would allow the project to ensue. The idea of the Golden Onion Dome was to take a different approach on energy conservation and determine if a city wide dome was a practical concept. Not only would this greatly effect the city of Winooksi's energy consumption and climate but also greatly impact community life in many ways.

    Many prominent people spoke on behalf of the Dome proposal including Dr. Dominique P.Casavant, Dr. Edward L. Henry, R. Buckminster Fuller, Lora Spiller, Thomas Zung, Roy Hall, Ernest Schaefer and Wendel R. Wendel. These people, coming from many different areas of expertise involving the Dome idea, spoke of the project with great enthusiasm. R. Buckminster Fuller, an architect and the person to put up the first geodisic dome stated "In a time of growing population and dwindling resources, especially energy, it is incumbent upon technology to dedicate itself to provide mankind with the means of sheltering himself from the elements with the least amount of materials and resources.  Domes are inherently capable of achieving this end, and in particular with the use of the tensigrity principle and with the development of materials that have increasing amounts of strength to mass ratio, the project to dome Winooski is a feasible practicality."

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photo courtesy of International Dome Symposium

    Along with many other enthusiastic presentations, during the symposium, there were also those who criticized the idea. Among others, Douglas Taff and John Effenberger had arguments against the innovative project.   Effenberger stated "The evolution of fabric structured is described with a discussion of the energy performance of some existing fabric structures detailed.  It is pointed out that certain fabrics do well in warm climates, fabrics for cold climates are not so well advanced."
    Towards the end of the symposium selected respondents stated why they agreed or disagreed with the Dome project.  Mark Tigan, Executive Director of Community Development Winooski, Vermont, made the closing remarks.  A few statements of his conclusion are as follows.

"I view what has been said in a way which is not unbiased, but rather biased toward domes.  The symposium brought into better focus the issues associated with domes.  It really sharpened the points of controversy and placed in a better context the role that today's domes can be expected to play.  This concept is not on the extreme side but certainly poses itself on the edge of innovation.   It has been made clear that the role of domes will change with the availability and affordability of energy, and that is a rather straight-forward application of the supply demand curve...To summarize the arguments pro-dome today:  Domes can be energy exporters, depending on their management.  Domes allow for climate control.   Some people view that as an argument against, but on the whole I think it generally would be viewed favorably.  Domes would result in savings on internal structure maintenance,  Structures within the domes, not subject to the extremes of the weather could be constructed out of less rigorous materials.  Other kinds of construction such as streets and walk-ways, would also last much longer.  Domes ass net usable space to the communities because they allow for use of rooftops for gardens and such.   Because this is new construction, domes would benefit the construction business by providing jobs.  These would be like the construction of the pyramids except that it would not be dome with slave labor.  They would result in the reduction of automobile usage, the effect being a net savings in non-renewable energy supplies."

    The Golden Onion Dome obviously did not occur, but as you can see from a brief sample of what was discussed during the symposium, there may be a possibility that this issue will come up again in the future.