Page B1.1 . 18 September 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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Revolutionary Domes

by Albert Warson

A dome-shaped house that can rotate 300 degrees? It may sound quirky, but this is the product of Canadian company Sunspace Rotating Homes. They design and build these structures, mainly on small hillside and infill sites, in Canada and the United States.

There is nothing new about the dome shape or any question about its structural merits. Inuit igloos in the Arctic and felt-covered yurts on the Mongolian steppes, for example, have been used for centuries. Buckminster Fuller invented the geodesic dome in the middle of the 20th century, and, although it never reached mainstream popularity, its influence is still felt today. Fuller's round and non-geodesic Dymaxion House came with its own internal rotating features.

Indeed, there are several U.S. manufacturers of domed houses made from wood, lightweight concrete, or steel, but these domes are fixed in place. Sunspace is the only manufacturer in North America of houses that are both domed and rotatable.

Manufacturing Domed Houses

The company was founded in Vancouver in 1997 by architect Ronan Le Glatin and timber-frame builder Cormac McCarthy. Le Glatin was intrigued with the domed, rotating houses he observed in France.

Sunspace Rotating Homes, now based in both Vancouver and Montreal, produces nine models, ranging from 800 to 4,200 square feet (75 to 390 square meters), and Le Glatin modifies each design as needed to suit different building codes. All components except the windows are cut to order in a factory and delivered in containers to the buyers' sites. Velux windows are imported from Europe.   >>>

The original French rotating domes that seem to have provided a model for the domes described in this article were designed by Patrick Marsilli. Since we first published this article, ArchitectureWeek has learned there may be some controversy around design and manufacturing rights for these domes. For a range of viewpoints, please see the ongoing discussion at our Architecture Forum. — Editor

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A dome-shaped house built by Sunspace Rotating Homes for a wooded, hilly site.
Photo: Sunspace Rotating Homes

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The house's pre-engineered structure in construction.
Photo: Sunspace Rotating Homes


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