In 1940 Fuller designed the Dymaxion Deployment Unit, which was the first of his shelters to be actually put to some use. This was more or less a converted grain bin: a 20ft circular, corrugated steel construction, lined with wallboard and insulated with fibreglass. The roof was a shallow conical lid whose sections had a compound curvature which stiffened the entire structure. Light entered through port-holes and an adjustable skylight/ventilator.

Like most of Fuller's buildings, this was constructed from the top downwards. The roof was suspended from a central pole which was removed once the building was finished.

Fuller designed a special floor, assembled from masonite boards, which was an innovation in itself. Another remarkable feature was an electrical power-supply strip which ran right round the circular wall and which could be plugged into at any point.

The US Government commissioned Fuller to develop the Dymaxion Deployment Unit at a time when it had not entered the Second World War but was supporting Britain in various ways against Germany. In due course, the Units were shipped all over the globe to places like the Pacific Islands and the Persian Gulf.

In the Gulf they housed American pilots and mechanics who were assembling and flight-testing aeroplanes sent there by ship to be flown to Russia, which had, on June 30th 1941, been attacked by Germany.

The pilots and mechanics lived in a small city of DDUs which were powered by electrical hook-up to generators on board a US ship moored in the harbour.

On December 7th 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. This led to a massive amount of war production in the USA, and this in turn caused a steel shortage. As a result of this, the US Government cancelled the manufacturer's priority allocation of steel. That was the end of the DDU.

The story is told by Hatch (pp.157-162), and in Dymaxion World (pp.116-127).

In 2004 The Guardian newspaper had an article about how someone had converted a grain silo into a house. No mention of Fuller's Dymaxion Deployment Unit, of course.



Paul Taylor 2006