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.

Completed dome.

Plywood Dome at Washington Square, San Francisco – 1957

Photo sequence shows construction of this dome at Washington Square in San Francisco.

Concrete Dome – 1958

Polaroid image of Tom’s first experimental lightweight concrete dome, where triangular panels comprise a structure of hexagons.

Bucky Fuller and Tom holding dogbone segment, finished prototype in background.

Dogbone Dome, Denver – 1960

The dogbone was placed in series to form a geodesic dome that had the strength and durability of concrete while the entire system produced a lightweight structure.

Completed fraternity house, its dogbone construction hidden by solid surface.

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity House at Denver University – 1960

By the end of 1960, construction on a fraternity house for the Denver University chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was under way. It would be the first functional application of the dogbone dome. It was an extreme disappointment for Tom when city building inspectors, who had no experience with a structure of this design and engineering, insisted that the dome’s surface be uniform and whole. Moore gave his patent for the dogbone to Bucky Fuller and moved on to other projects. The city did allow Moore’s barrel-shell construction for the fraternity house’s living quarters.