One of Buckminster Fuller’s first geodesic domes was the Union Tank Car Dome in Louisiana – the largest clear-span structure in the world when it was completed in 1958
The Union Tank Car Dome in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was one of the first geodesic domes built by Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the visionary and highly influential American designer and inventor. This unusual architectural type, which he pioneered, evolved from his studies of the geometry of circles and tetrahedrons, combined with his interest in creating economical multi-purpose structures. When completed in 1958, the Union Tank Car Dome was, at 384ft in diameter, the largest clear-span structure in the world. Both its shape and the lack of internal support facilitated the work carried out inside, the repair of tank cars, which were then moved to the long tunnel attached to the dome to be repainted. The Dome became very popular and was considered a success by the company, but after being sold on it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 2007 by its owner, who had struggled to give it a new purpose. In 2010 a documentary on the building, titled ‘A Necessary Ruin’, chronicled the structure’s history, decline and demolition, still regretted by many.