Space Frame

jill's picture

What do most modern motorcycles, cars, highway signs, some tall buildings, domed arenas and modernist style industrial and commercial buildings have in common? The space frame: a lightweight, rigid frame made of interlocking bars or rods (struts). Arranged in a geometric pattern, the struts in a space frame building provide stability, strength and resistance to rotation or movement due to external forces such as strong wind or ground motion.

As early as 1900, Alexander Graham Bell developed the idea of using space frames to make strong, rigid structures for nautical and aeronautical engineering purposes. Later, in the 1950s, Buckminster Fuller (who popularized the geodesic dome)  applied the same concept to architectural design, enabling large roof spans. Although Fuller wasn’t the first person to use this design, he was the first to patent it. Aside from the brief craze in parts of the United States to build geodesic “dome homes” during the mid-twentieth century, space frame construction is normally not used for single family dwellings or multi-family housing. Architects and building designers most often use the space frame when they want to create expansive, internal spaces.

One of the most striking examples of a space frame building is Biosphere 2, a multi-acre structure about the size of 2-1/2 football fields, originally built to be a closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona. A second spectacular example is the Eden Project, home of the world’s largest greenhouse.

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