Geodesic dome

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A geodesic dome is a spherical or partial-spherical shell structure or lattice shell based on a network of great circles (geodesics) lying on the surface of a sphere. The geodesics intersect to form triangular elements that have local triangular rigidity and also distribute the stress across the entire structure. When completed to form a complete sphere, it is known as a geodesic sphere. The term "dome" refers to an enclosed structure and should not be confused with non-enclosed geodesic structures such as geodesic climbers found on playgrounds.

Typically the design of a geodesic dome begins with an icosahedron inscribed in a sphere, tiling each triangular face with smaller triangles, then projecting the vertices of each tile to the sphere. The endpoints of the links of the completed sphere would then be the projected endpoints on the sphere's surface. If this is done exactly, each of the edges of the sub-triangles is a slightly different length, so it would require a very large number of links of different sizes. To minimize the number of different sizes of links, various simplifications are made. The result is a compromise consisting of a pattern of triangles with their vertices lying approximately on the surface of the sphere. The edges of the triangles form approximate geodesic paths over the surface of the dome that distribute its weight.

Geodesic designs can be used to form any curved, enclosed space. Oddly-shaped designs would require calculating for and custom building of each individual strut, vertex or panel—resulting in potentially expensive construction. Because of the expense and complexity of design and fabrication of any geodesic dome, builders have tended to standardize using a few basic designs.


Related patterns

Similar geodesic structures may be based upon the pattern of edges and vertices of certain platonic solids, or upon various expansions of these called Johnson solids. Such structures may be composed of struts of uniform length while having faces other than triangles such as pentagons or squares, or these faces may be subdivided by struts of other than the basic length. Plans and licenses for such structures derived from licenses of the Fuller patents were produced during the 1970s by Zomeworks (now a manufacturer of solar trackers). Both geodesic and non-geodesic structures can be derived similarly from the archimedean solids and catalan solids.

The building of strong stable structures out of patterns of reinforcing triangles is most commonly seen in tent design. It has been applied in the abstract in other industrial design, but even in management science and deliberative structures as a conceptual metaphor, especially in the work of Stafford Beer, whose transmigration method is based so specifically on dome design that only fixed numbers of people can take part in the process at each deliberation stages.

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