Hippy geodesic dome home at Henry Ford Museum


I had a chance to go through the amazing Henry Ford Museum during Maker Faire Detroit (which was held in the Museum and in the parking lot there). I was expecting it to be mainly about Henry Ford and Ford cars, but it was so much more than that. It was much bigger than I imagined, and it contained exhibits about cultural and technological developments around the world, from the mid-19th century to the present day. I think it was one of the most interesting museums I've ever visited. I plan to write a few of posts about the museum. Here's my first.

I enjoyed this cool exhibit of a geodesic commune home, circa 1973. Bob Dylan music was playing and the bookshelves included High Priest, by Timothy Leary and The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris. (I wish I could have taken clearer photos of the bookshelves.)

The place looked cozy. I was ready to move in.

More photos after the jump.








  1. Seeing the counterculture crystallized into a museum exhibit is a surreal and amusing experience. Especially since I have plans to live in a structure like this as soon as possible, whether or not the history books relegate this impulse to something for a youth of the counterculture 40 years ago. :)

  2. holy crap, is that a stickley chair?? those damn patchouli-scented peaceniks didn’t know what they had…

  3. Seeing Mark explore the same museum i’ve seen hundreds of times before and being astounded is adorable.

  4. That’s my house! It was bigger (26′ dia., 1/2 sphere 2V), but we had 6 people living in ours.

    The brick-and-board shelving is authentic, as is the wood-burning stove and the colorful accoutrements. We used a nice copper Mexican candelabra and a Coleman mantle lantern instead of the kerosene lamp, however, for the year that we had no electricity.

  5. There’s an awesome little hideout in Brunswick, GA called Forest Hostel that centers around a few 70’s geodesic structures. You can rent a treehouse and chill in the round common room. Very cool!

  6. The Henry Ford Museum has a number of painstakingly reproduced domestic interiors. They’re like looking at movie sets.
    The entire museum is enormous. If you go there, don’t skip the indoor locomotive collection or the exhibit of 18c steam engines. Or airplanes or…

  7. I see a first edition copy of Dune in picture 4.
    Well, at least the ones called “Smelly Hippies” had good taste.

  8. I agree with mreddy1. I’ve gone to this museum at least annually since my infancy! Surreal to see “outsiders” so enamored with it :)

  9. Please give us a full report on the museum’s Mold-A-Rama machines! Are they all working now? Also don’t forget the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion House!

  10. Quite cool… but if this is meant for communal living, where does everyone sleep?

    I see room for maybe a twin bed for two people behind the curtain. I suppose three or even four could sleep together back there, if they swung that way.

    I think I just answered my own question…

  11. I see that copy of “How to keep your volkswagen alive forever”

    Great book, with great illustrations.

  12. As a kid, and young adult, my summer cttage in the Muskokas in Ontario was a geodesic dome that my dad built. It was much larger than the one in the pics above. It had some really interesting internal acoustic effects. It was impossible to effectively waterproof, and very hot in the hotter times of the summer. It’s still standing, and still being used as a summer cottage, so far as I know.

    We used to paint it strong colours like vivid yellow, or deep green, or even silver. We would get lots of goofy-galkers every summer driving by in their motorboats gabbling about how wierd it looked — people in motorboats tend to forget that while they have to shout to hear each other, those on the shore can hear them very, very well. So that was always good for a laugh.

    1. Sounds really cool. Google Earth plz!

      Also, second the need for Mark’s take on Dymaxion.

      Also, Mark, tsk, for a Maker you should know that since everything was built in the ‘Foundry’ nation (9 nations of North America theory) we have the best museums! ;D

      It’s hard to top the Henry Ford, but there are little ones with a few weird exhibits everywhere.

      In my town alone (Hamilton) we have a WW2 warship, the last surviving pieces of the Avro Arrow, and a steam museum!

      1. I tried Google-Earthing it, but it’s way too fuzzy to make anything out. I guess no one does Street View on Muskoka area lakes (thank goodness), and there are no photos of it that I can see posted.

  13. They forgot the cable wire spool table and the stacks of Mother Earth News magazines. We also preferred Go over chess. Still, thanks for the memories!

  14. The Wienermobile Mold-A-Rama machine still works perfectly. I have a 4″ red plastic Wienermobile on my desk, a treasured keepsake of Maker Faire Detroit.

  15. Thanks Mark, I like it, there is something about the 60s that have me obssesed with those times even if I was born in 1979.
    I think I have to visit that museum someday.

  16. The Mold-A-Rama Machines at the Henry Ford are all in perfect working order. The museum has six of them, I think.

    They cost $2.00 now…

  17. I have a Membership at the Henry Ford Museum. It is so weird to walk in and see my room from 1970 all ready for me. LOL!

  18. They just need to install piping at the apex joints to let in the drip-drip-drip of incoming rain that you’d find in virtually every dome built in the communes of the seventies.

  19. Having walked through the museum thousands of times, you could say I’m a bit burned out on the place. Going to high school there will do that.

  20. re: Mold-A-Rama machines–they have ten, and I saw three or four of them in action, and spoke with an attendee whose brother does maintenance on the machines who told me about difficulties with the LED upgrades to the lighting in the units. They’re getting rid of the high power LEDs because of heat issues and are replacing them with LED strip lighting because it’s so much easier to work with. I love, love, love that Mold-A-Rama machines are getting multiple LED upgrades! We opted for the vintage car model (especially over the F150), but we seem to have left our souvenir in our hotel room. We’ll have to go back and get another one and see parts of the museum we missed!

  21. I went to the Henry Ford Museum last summer. It was awesome. But the power was out in the Old Steam Engines section and also at the Dymaxion House; the latter was closed, but the former was still ‘open’ and you could walk through it, and it was a whole lot more steampunk that way.

  22. The cloth under the chess board appears to be a woodblock print from Esfahan, Iran. Wonder how many hippies back in the day had one of those…?

    Pretty awesome looking museum. Love the bookshelf and all the details.

  23. Very nice. Museum exhibits are often very hard to photograph well and you did a great job. This is very relevant to an exhibit I’m working on and I referring these images to our design team. Many thanks!

  24. It is a wonderful space to visit in. The adjoining village is great too. Edison’s lab, the bicycle store, the steam locomotive the circles the village. And of course the Model T’s you can ride on. I used to go to the car show the one covering 1890’s to 1930’s. The gaslight parade is great. Also the Civil war reenactments on Memorial Day.

  25. Mark, did not see any Greenfield Village pics. They have a few heritage Makers workshops there, including the Thomas Edison Menlo Park complex that Henry Ford had built with Edison’s help to match the 1880 details of the first industrial research lab in the US.

  26. The Henry Ford, as they call the entire complex these days, is easily Michigan’s can’t miss tourist attraction. In addition to the huge museum, there is Greenfield Village, which is laid out like a town and has various buildings from history. They have the bicycle shop that the Wright brothers tinkered in before they moved on to that whole flight thing. Edison and, of course, Hank Ford himself are also represented. It’s fascinating to walk where these giant minds walked.

    The most impressive thing about the complex is the scale. There are exhibits of industrial machinery in the museum that you can get lost in. You are dwarfed by the humongous steam engines of yesteryear. The exhibits of planes and cars go on forever. They even have a pretty decent design section. A recent addition was an exhibit on the origins of the legendary Aeron chair (Herman Miller is another Michigan manufacturer.)

    If you really want to make it a several day visit, they also have an off-site tour of a working Ford Motor Company manufacturing site (F-150s.)

  27. What a hoot! Although I didn’t live in a dome , much of the decor is almost identical to the interior of my 16′ x16′ hippie cabin that I built in the middle of 40 acres in the Ozarks in 1975 during my back-to-the-land days.Makes me feel so…historical.Thanks for the post.

  28. The Henry Ford is nerd paradise. There isn’t a better museum in North American, IMO. Even after dozens of visits over the years, I still see crazy new stuff each time. I could spend all day just looking at the steam engines and generators.

  29. My boyfriend in college (hi Chris!) built one about this size in his backyard (local to the college) when he was in high school. Taught himself trigonometry in order to do so. It had a nice loft sleeping platform near the top, and a hatch so you could look through the telescope at night. I really really wanted to live in a dome when I grew up…that’s as close as I got.

    Buckminster Fuller rules!

  30. I hope you post about the dynamax house. That is our favorite exhibit. But the whole place is really great.

  31. Yes, the Ford Museum is arguably the most surprisingly astounding museums in the USA. I spent my childhood in Paris museums and have visited most of the best in the world. It is uniquely American – like Jazz. A testimony to the optimism of American Manufacturing and culture, Poetically Edison and Ford celebrated the start of construction prior to the Crash of 29. Its testimony to the gears of American manufacturing is inspiring. A much need reminder to what Americans can do. We cannot compete with the Tate, Louvre, Prado, or Musée d’Orsay, Yet, no one can compete with the Ford museum. I also want to highlight the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. No one does it better. Also the DeMenil museum in Houston. Real Gems. Good on you for highlighting the Ford with its Eames chair, wonderful highlight of racial history, Macs, Trains, Diners, Airplanes, etc. Good luck.

  32. My Mold-o-Rama choice was the Henry statuette, which busted up in my luggage on the way home, but I liked the resulting glued-together FrankenHenry better. The Tunnel of Trippy Lights in the Detroit airport was amazing, and worth a search on YouTube!
    The Dymaxion House was fun to walk through but the floor was very bouncy, like living in a hanging birdcage! The first time I ever heard of Bucky Fuller was in an Iron Man comic (#113, ’78), where Tony Stark had a computerized Dymaxion Car (which he built from scratch in college) at his factory. Sadly it was smashed up in the story, and they don’t have a D-car at the Henry Ford.

  33. lived in the metro-D area until I was eleven or so, and used to visit this place periodically. This exhibit was definitely after my time.

    I loved all the machinery, but used to bug-out for hours at the blacksmith’s shop. I figured it would’ve gone over like gangbusters with you and your fellow makers, but maybe its not there anymore or maybe not as unique because there are similar exhibits elsewhere (seems like Williamsburg had one, probably many others)

    seeing the iron heated until glowing and then twisted and beaten into shape was at once primaly gripping, thrilling, and intellectually stimulating to me as a small boy.

    The museum and the Dearborne Village are absolute gems, as is the Detroit Institute of Art, just to shout-out one of my other favorite places up there.

  34. Man, that is so surreal.

    They could have just picked that place up from my neighborhood and dropped it into a museum. Not just the dome part, but the furnishings and even many of the books.

    Most of the commune spaces I have been in aren’t as nice as it on the inside though.

  35. Geodesic domes are cool, yes, but they’re terrible as practical buildings, especially for living in and for many reasons.

    For example, they tend to leak like nobody’s business.

    Also, though circles and spheres enclose the most volume with the least perimeter, much of that space ends up not getting used. There’s a reason almost every room you live in is built entirely with 90 degree angles. It’s the most efficient way to pack in as much furniture as possible.

    There’s roughly a chapter or so about living in geodesic domes in the amazing and enlightening book on how to keep architecture practical, “How Buildings Learn”.

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