Buckminster Fuller envisioned entire neighborhoods being built of the 36-feet-in-diameter circular structures — which resemble giant Hershey’s Kisses due to their shape and metal exteriors — in suburbs popping up after World War II, according to the exhibit. The small homes were designed to be delivered in kits and assembled on-site, with advanced features meant to efficiently ventilate the structure, store belongings and reduce water use.
Alas, due to insufficient financial backing, according to The Henry Ford, only two prototypes of the house ever were built; the design never was mass-produced as Fuller had hoped. But it really is something to see in the museum. (If you can’t make it there, however, check out this video.)
I thought of the Dymaxion House recently when I heard about the efforts of IKEA and Swedish construction company Skanska, which together own a company, BoKlok, that makes affordable housing for markets in Sweden, Norway and Finland (with an expansion planned for the United Kingdom).
BoKlok is working to tailor the units for older adults, including those with dementia, CNN reported. As of last month, the company had built six of the “SilviaBo” units (named for Queen Silvia of Sweden, whose mother had Alzheimer’s) and was planning to pilot-test them in Sweden. There are no plans to come to the United States — at least not yet.
Of course, in the United States, Dr. Bill Thomas has developed a tiny house model named Minka. Thomas envisions the prefabricated houses as accessory dwelling units or clustered into so-called pocket neighborhoods — for older adults and others who need affordable housing and desire to remain independent.
Other companies, such as Eagle Ridge Buildings, also are aiming to build neighborhoods of tiny houses for older adults — Eagle Ridge owner Paul Malham calls the idea “Senior Pods” and envisions residents collectively agreeing on and ordering services based on their needs.
As the senior living industry looks to find ways to serve the silver wave of baby boomers, including those in the middle market, all ideas should be on the table as potential solutions. Who knows — maybe someone could dust off Fuller’s blueprints for the Dymaxion House. Regardless, I hope these newer efforts and others are successful.
And speaking of museums and interesting inventions, make time to check out Louis Mattar’s Fabulous Car at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park if you are attending this year’s LeadingAge Annual Meeting & Expo or otherwise find yourself in San Diego before Feb. 13. Although Mattar and two other men lived in the car during a cross-country trip, I don’t expect the idea to be resurrected as a solution to senior housing needs. But like the Dymaxion House, it’s fun to see in person.