Geodesic Dome


A geodesic dome is a triangulation of a Platonic solid or other polyhedron to produce a close approximation to a sphere (or hemisphere). The nth order geodesation operation replaces each polygon of the polyhedron by the projection onto the circumsphere of the order-n regular tessellation of that polygon.

The above figure shows base solids (top row) and geodesations of orders 1 to 3 (from top to bottom) of the cube, dodecahedron, icosahedron, octahedron, and tetrahedron (from left to right), computed using Geodesate[poly, n] in the Wolfram Language package PolyhedronOperations` . Geodesic polyhedra computed using a slightly different method are implemented in the Wolfram Language as GeodesicPolyhedron[poly].

The first geodesic dome was built in Jena, Germany in 1922 on top of the Zeiss optics company as a projection surface for their planetarium projector. R. Buckminster Fuller subsequently popularized so-called geodesic domes, and explored them far more thoroughly. Fuller's original dome was constructed from an icosahedron by adding isosceles triangles about each polyhedron vertex and slightly repositioning the polyhedron vertices. In such domes, neither the polyhedron vertices nor the centers of faces necessarily lie at exactly the same distances from the center. However, these conditions are approximately satisfied.

In the geodesic domes discussed by Kniffen (1994), the sum of polyhedron vertex angles is chosen to be a constant. Given a Platonic solid, let e be the number of edges, v the number of vertices,


be the number of edges meeting at a polyhedron vertex and n be the number of edges of the constituent polygon. Call the angle of the old polyhedron vertex point A and the angle of the new polyhedron vertex point F. Then

2A+F=180 degrees.

Solving for A gives

 2A+(2e^')/nA=2A(1+(e^')/n)=180 degrees
 A=90 degreesn/(e^'+n),


 F=(2e^')/nA=180 degrees(e^')/(e^'+n).

The polyhedron vertex sum is

 Sigma=nF=180 degrees(e^'n)/(e^'+n).
tetrahedron643345 degrees90 degrees270 degrees
octahedron12643384/7 degrees1026/7 degrees3084/7 degrees
cube12834513/7 degrees771/7 degrees3084/7 degrees
dodecahedron302035561/4 degrees671/2 degrees3371/2 degrees
icosahedron301253333/4 degrees1121/2 degrees3371/2 degrees

Wenninger and Messer (1996) give general formulas for solving any geodesic chord factor and dihedral angle in a geodesic dome.

See also

Sphere, Spherical Polyhedron, Spherical Triangle, Triangular Symmetry Group

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Kenner, H. Geodesic Math and How to Use It. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976.Kniffen, D. "Geodesic Domes for Amateur Astronomers." Sky & Telescope 88, 90-94, Oct. 1994.Messer, P. W. "Mathematical Formulas for Geodesic Domes." Appendix to Wenninger, M. Spherical Models. New York: Dover, pp. 145-149, 1999.Pappas, T. "Geodesic Dome of Leonardo da Vinci." The Joy of Mathematics. San Carlos, CA: Wide World Publ./Tetra, p. 81, 1989.Wells, D. The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Geometry. London: Penguin, pp. 85-86, 1991.Wenninger, M. J. and Messer, P. W. "Patterns on the Spherical Surface." Internat. J. Space Structures 11, 183-192, 1996.Wenninger, M. "Geodesic Domes." Ch. 4 in Spherical Models. New York: Dover, pp. 80-124, 1999.

Referenced on Wolfram|Alpha

Geodesic Dome

Cite this as:

Weisstein, Eric W. "Geodesic Dome." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

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