Last updated: 27th August 2021.
If you’re tired of feeling boxed in, backed up in a corner and bored of all the square rooms and rectangular spaces you inhabit day in and day out, exploring world-famous geodomes may be the break you need to get you unstuck.
A geodome or a geodesic dome refers to a spherical structure with interlinked triangles serving as its sturdy framework. The result is a deceptively delicate construction which is actually quite robust because the polygonal facets serve their architectural purpose of distributing stresses throughout the structure.
Here are 10 world-renowned geodomes to consider for your next travel adventure.
Montreal Biosphère (Quebec, Canada)
Richard Buckminster Fuller, the architect who named and perfected the geodesic dome, designed the Montreal Biosphère in Canada. This 20-storey-tall dome was commissioned by the United States government for the 1967 World Fair in Montreal and was donated to Canada thereafter.
Unlike most geodomes that are constructed as half a sphere, the Biosphère was built to showcase two-thirds of a sphere which contributed to its impressive and imposing façade. Its steel frame is covered by 1,900 acrylic panels making it look luminescent under the sunlight.
Fire and snow damaged the dome in 1976 and 1998 respectively, but several ownership changes and rebranding restored this geodome to its former glory. It now serves as an environmental museum championing sustainability and eco-friendly technologies.
Eden Project Biomes (Cornwall, England)
At first glance, the Eden Project Biomes at Cornwall look partly beehive and partly bubble wrap. This seems like a fitting description especially since Grimshaw Architects conceived the design through biomimicry which means using nature’s patterns, designs and systems to create human structures and spark technological innovations.
Meanwhile, the bubble wrap appearance was inspired by soap bubbles. Since the Biomes sit on a clay pit, the idea of bubbles adapting to irregular surfaces provided the solution on how to build on top of shifting sands.
The two layers of polygonal steel frames that comprise each dome were filled in with transparent ethylene tetrafluoroethylene copolymer (ETFE) about two metres deep which gives it that pillowy look. The result? Instead of sticking out like an eyesore, the Biomes seamlessly blend into the environment.
Telus Sphere at Vancouver’s Science World (British Columbia, Canada)
Known as the “golf ball” at Vancouver’s Science World, this geodesic dome is made up of about 6,800 kg of 1-mm thick extruded aluminium and aluminium panels. Chief architect Bruno Freschi designed this Buckminster Fuller-inspired dome for the 1986 World’s Fair (Expo 86). It was converted into its current incarnation as a science centre after the Expo closed.
According to their website, there are a total of 391 lights and 766 triangles on this geodome. When lit up, this sphere sitting atop the Science World building is truly a sight to behold.
Matrimandir at Auroville (Tamil Nadu, India)
The Matrimandir, which means “the dwelling place of Mother” took 37 years to complete from February 1971 to May 2008. Fortunately, those decades of drawn-out work have paid off as millions of yoga and meditation practitioners journey to this temple for silence and rumination.
Matrimandir is covered in golden discs, surrounded by 12 petals and propped up by four main pillars. Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, conceived the idea of this temple and entrusted French architect Roger Anger to come up with the blueprint for the build. This geodome looks even more whimsical as sunlight bounces off the golden discs covering the dome, as if a giant goose has laid a golden egg in the centre of the field.
Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden (Missouri, USA)
This award-winning geodome, developed by St. Louis architects Murphy and Mackey, has an aluminium framework covered in plexiglass panels. However, Climatron’s plastic panels presented all sorts of problems including leaks and discolouration, so they were replaced with heat-tempered glass panes during renovation. The added weight and strain to the dome compelled engineers to reinforce the greenhouse by building a dome within the dome.
This is considered as the world’s first fully air-conditioned conservatory with more than 2,800 plants growing within the climate-control technology of this greenhouse. The geodesic dome design maximises light and space for flora to thrive, while the computerised climate control system makes you feel like you’re entering a verdant tropical rainforest.
The Nature House in the Arctic Circle (Sandhornøya island, Norway)
This Glass Dome Eco House, dubbed “The Nature House,” is a solar-powered glass dome that is home to the Hjertefølgers. Hjertefølger fittingly means “heart follower” in Norwegian. Following their hearts led to the creation of this 25-foot-high geodome with three storeys and five bedrooms nestled in Norway’s Sandhornøya island which is located about 1000 kilometres north of Oslo.
The house itself is encased inside this sustainably built and eco-friendly dome. The structure is made of organic materials like sand, water and clay, retaining heat to serve as natural insulation while the shape works as a shield protecting the family from the unpredictable Arctic climate.
Inside there’s a garden where the family grows their own fruits and vegetables. But the best part is the breath-taking panorama surrounding the dome, giving the family access to unobstructed views of the famed Northern Lights. It’s like living in an eco-friendly bubble.
The Glass Dome in Dali Museum (Figueres, Spain)
The Dalí Theatre and Museum is already a major tourist draw in Catalonia, Spain as it houses the acclaimed works as well as the remains of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí in his hometown of Figueres. Though people also visit the Dali Museum for the remarkable geodesic glass dome which covers the roof of the museum.
The Glass Dome illuminates the stage of the old theatre below to facilitate your appreciation of Dalí’s artworks. The geodome was conceived by architect Emilio Pérez Piñero as a structural solution to preserve the theatre which was ravaged by fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War.
EcoCamp Patagonia Domes (Torres del Paine National Park, Chile)
The EcoCamp Patagonia Domes is the world’s first geodesic dome hotel and lauded piece of architecture for their eco-friendly and completely sustainable geodesic domes. If you ever dream of going camping with all your creature comforts, aka glamping, this is the way to go.
Opened in 2001, this award-winning lodge attracts travellers from all over the world who want to experience the perks of sustainable living in this awe-inspiring landscape. The hotel even managed to get ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications for strong quality and environmental management systems in place.
Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel (Monthey, Switzerland)
For another glamping experience, head to the Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel with stunning vistas of the Swiss Alps. This is a modern and cosy accommodation for a luxury adventure with your family. The 15 geodomes or pods are anchored on wooden platforms that sit 1,400 metres above sea level overlooking Lake Geneva and the majestic mountains.
The domes are heated with a wood chip furnace and lit by lantern to keep you and your family warm and cosy. Whitepod won the 2005 Responsible Tourism Award for Innovation for offering a low-impact accommodation and alternative means of exploring the Swiss Alps.
Glass Igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort (Lapland, Finland)
The glass igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort captured the imagination of travellers all over the world for the surreal experience of glamping underneath the stars lit up by the dazzling Aurora Borealis. The glass roofs of the igloos are made of thermal glass which does not steam up or frost over while also keeping the dome warm and insulated even during sub-zero temperatures.
So if you’re looking for a great place to view the Northern Lights, you may want to go to the igloos from late August until late April. Otherwise, there are plenty of activities you can do year-round, and of course nothing beats stargazing under the Arctic sky.
If you would like to build a dome structure yourself it is easier than you might think. To create a fancy garden dome, a cool looking greenhouse or a unique garden office you can make use of DIY geodesic dome kits which are available for sale and include all the elements you need.