Dymaxion Deployment Units Still Standing

Dymaxion Deployment Unit circa 2000.

[An expanded, corrected and illustrated update of this article appears in The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller.]

The Dymaxion Deployment Unit (sheet) is called a Building Construction in patent 2,343,764 (7 March 1944).  The Dymaxion Deployment Unit (frame) is called a Building Construction in patent 2,351,419 (13 June 1944).  Both of these patents were assigned to Dymaxion Company Inc.  Fuller was the Director and Chief Engineer of the Dymaxion Corporation.  Dymaxion World illustration 167 identifies the photograph on pages 54-55 of Inventions as having been taken in Haynes Point Park, Washington DC in April 1941.  The photograph on page 61 of Inventions appears again with an exterior shot in Dymaxion World images 163 and 164.  The photograph on page 68 includes Walter Sanders (head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Michigan) and his wife.  The couple lived in the DDU for an unspecified period of time according to Dymaxion WorldDymaxion World emphasizes that Fuller modified the roof of an existing grain bin, giving it a more curved surface.  This modification appears to be the basis for Fuller’s claim to inventing the Dymaxion Deployment Unit.

The existing grain bin that Fuller modified was manufactured by Butler Manufacturing, founded by Charles Butler and Emanuel Norquist. According to Butler Manufacturing:

R. Buckminster Fuller had gained international fame for his futuristic strategies and his concept of “maximum dynamic utility.” Fuller found inspiration in the design of Butler Manufacturing Company’s mass-produced grain bins. In their design he saw low-cost, easy-to-make, fast, demountable, and movable housing for military troops and their families. The mutual admiration and enthusiasm between Buckminster Fuller and Emanuel Norquist propelled the project through design, testing, government approval, and production tooling in a matter of months. The project was ready for action when the reins were suddenly yanked. Steel remained on allocation, and the government could not reasonably divert enough to support large contracts on these novel houses. A few hundred were put to use by the Army for medical operating rooms and Signal Corps housing, but orders were meager. However, through its connections with Mr. Fuller, Butler Manufacturing Company gained the confidence to push the rigid frame design to the limit, launching pre-engineered building systems into worldwide acceptance and favor.

Dymaxion Deployment Units were put to use by the United States Army in Alaska, the Middle East and Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.  The Fort Monmonth Command Historian maintains a copy of the U. S. Army manual on constructing a DDU.  A Dymaxion Deployment Unit is on the roof of the Myer Center at Fort Monmonth. Three other DDUs are on south side of building 9011B.  Two of the remaining DDUs are considered historic buildings.  At present there are no efforts to preserve these buildings.

More information and contemporary photographs can be found at the DDU page of InfoAge.

- Trevor Blake

Trevor Blake is the author of the Buckminster Fuller Bibliography, available at synchronofile.com

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 DDU, rbf, shelter