Moore’s first dome, constructed with plywood panels, was built during the International Design Conference in Aspen, 1953. The rectangular panels overlapped, creating numerous irregular small “windows” covered with various colored plastic sheets, giving a colorful effect at night when lighted from within. In 1957 Moore built a larger demonstration plywood dome at Washington Square in San Francisco.
By the late 1950s Tom was turning his attention from the experimental plywood material for domes to constructing them with concrete. His first concrete dome, 1958, was built with triangular panels configured in hexagons that were joined to give the structure its shape. Each triangle had a centered opening that provided light without compromising the dome’s strength. In 1959 he invented what he called a dogbone element for concrete domes, which were prestressed and lightweight. The dogbone was applied to the construction of a fraternity house at the University of Denver, but the new concept was so unfamiliar to city building inspectors that Moore was forced to fill in the open spaces in the dome.