In the early 1950s Tom operated the partnership’s office in Grand Junction and opened temporary offices in Durango and Glenwood Springs. Spending summers with his family in a cottage on the Crystal River, he continued to take projects in the Roaring Fork Valley and all of Western Colorado, as well as commuting over Loveland Pass to jobs in the Denver area.
Moore had studied architecture at Yale with Eero Saarinen, and when Saarinen was hired to design the original tent for the second Goethe Festival in Aspen in 1950, he retained Moore to supervise its construction. Now 42, Moore became a participant in the recurring International Design Conference at the Aspen Institute, and here he began a lasting association with Buckminster Fuller. Tom built his first dome in Aspen in 1953, a plywood structure with various colored plastic in its irregular small “windows,” giving a colorful effect lighted from within at night.
From 1950 to 1952, Smith, Hegner and Moore’s Western Slope projects included Maplecrest Farm Dairy, a newspaper plant, and City Market warehouse at Grand Junction; a bank building and City Market at Glenwood Springs; Montrose airport terminal; and several schools in Western Colorado as well as in Denver. Independently, Moore designed a ranch house for the Schweppe family near Basalt, a new Pabst residence on Upper Snowmass Creek, a ranch house for the Whatley family near Debeque, and he produced a survey and design for schools in the Collbran School District. His final Western Slope project for the partnership was a modern building at the State Home and Training School in Grand Junction, where he was one of the first to apply thinshell concrete in a folded-plate roof (a series of Z-shaped panels). His last independent project in Grand Junction was a new residence for Director of the Grand Junction VA Hospital, Dr. Stanley Crosbie, and his wife, the sculptor Helen Blair.
In 1952, Smith, Hegner, and Moore dissoleved their partnership and each returned to private practice. Tom moved his family back to Denver. With his own practice well established, his emphasis on Modernism was giving way to an interest in thin-shell concrete and its application to large-span construction, including the geodesic dome. Two significant projects in 1954 were a hangar for Combs Hayden Aviation at Stapleton Airport in Denver, and a new facility for his late father’s enterprise, the H W Moore Equipment Company, now owned by Tom’s older brother John. Also in 1954, Moore designed a gymnasium and locker-room remodel at West High School in Denver, and a residence for Dr. Henry Folmer in a relatively new northeast Denver neighborhood.
Tom took on another school project in 1955: a library and gymnasium addition to Bromwell Elementary School in central East Denver. After designing a retail store for the W T Grant Company in Aurora, he was retained by the George W Clayton College, originally an orphanage in Denver whose campus had been designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Tom’s files do not describe the nature of this project. In 1955 Moore traveled to Mexico City to consult with the Spanish architect Felix Candela regarding large-span concrete structures, and subsequently, in partnership with structural engineer Hugh Hyder of Denver, established Shell Structures, Inc., specifically for large lightweight precast-concrete projects. They built an expansive garage for Denver Chicago Trucking, 1955-56, and an innovative covered water-diversion canal for the Denver Water Board, among several other industrial projects. Another of Moore’s personal jobs in the mid-1950s was the Faculty Club at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area near the Continental Divide.
The rest of the decade brought a substantial increase in projects through Shell Structures. Independently, Moore designed St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in southeast Denver; a Denver residence for Melvin Roberts; and he was retained by the Episcopal Bishop of Colorado to design a prototypical parish house for use throughout the diocese. He also consulted on a church design in Silver Spring, Maryland, and one in Lorain, Ohio.
Throughout the 1950s, Tom’s interest in the design and application of old ideas in the construction of new architectural forms, especially geodesic domes, kept him occupied with spare-time experiments. Since the International Design Conference in Aspen in 1950, Moore had maintained steady collaboration with Bucky Fuller, and by the end of the decade he had developed techniques making lightweight concrete a viable material for construction of Fuller’s geodesic dome.