This Modern Moment: Geodesic Domes at Planting Fields 

Nothing screams futuristic more than a geodesic dome.

Students head to class, 1962, Planting Fields Foundation Archives.

They were popularized by architect Buckminster Fuller during the 1950s and praised for their efficiency—in terms of energy, economics, and assembly. Considering that a spherical shape is more aerodynamic, they were even believed to be more resilient to the forces of a hurricane or an earthquake.

Pease Dome advertisement, 1958, courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1962, while the State University of New York Long Island Center (a precursor to SUNY Stony Brook) resided at Planting Fields, sixteen geodesic domes were constructed on the lawn adjacent to the Main Greenhouse to accommodate additional classroom and administrative space. The contractor drawings of the domes in the Planting Fields archives refer to them as “pease domes” which were fabricated by Pease Woodworking Company, who also built and designed Buckminster Fuller’s dome home in Carbondale, Illinois.

The only photographs of the domes in the archives are black and white, but according to Specula, the yearbook issued by the school: “The dome patch burst forth into living color with the appearance of yellow, red, and blue tops. Like children playing with blocks, we learned to differentiate by color: yellow for classrooms, red for faculty offices, and blue for the bookstore and student lounge.”

Toward the end of the SUNY era, in 1971 a few of the domes were relocated to another SUNY campus and the remaining ones were demolished. However, these domes and their evidence in the archives illustrate a uniquely modern moment at Planting Fields.

Domes during springtime, 1972, Planting Fields Foundation Archives.


Marie Penny, Michael D. Coe Archivist


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