Developer's plans to build condominium complex raise concerns over Buckminster Fuller's oldest extant geodesic dome

By Mackenzie Goldberg

While Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic domes may have gotten special mention in Jeff Bridges' recent Golden Globes speech, his oldest extant lattice-shelled structure is in the news for a less glorious reason. Now under serious threat, the Dome at Woods Hole and the accompanying Nautilus Hotel—for which it once served as the dining room—have been bought by a developer planning to build a condominium complex on the historic property.

Local developer Longfellow Design-Build, who is looking to build a 43-unit senior living complex, had been in talks about giving control of the dome to a non-profit organization that was created to save and restore the iconic geodesic dome; However, the two have been unable to come to an agreement.

The non-profit the Dome at Woods Hole was hoping to secure a long-term lease to refurbish the structure and turn it into a site for artistic endeavors. But, after two years of negotiations, the developer has walked away from talks, instead hiring his own experts to put together a plan for the dome.

The non-profit has accused the plans of being cherry-picked from their proposal and further, that the larger development of the surrounding property will threaten the dome's integrity as a mid-century icon. In particular, they cited concerns over the lack of a thorough historic structures report, the proposed elimination of the dome's attached kitchen and entry, and the proximity and scale of the residential buildings.

This month, Woods Hole Partners will begin presenting their proposal to the Zoning Board. In their application, they've stated "the dome will be restored for use as an airy, open art studio space, with excellent natural and artificial lighting." Given that the property lies within a Historic District, the state Historical Commission will have considerable impact on the decision. The Dome at Woods Hole, lead by Nicole Goodman who is also vice chairwoman of the Historical Commission, is looking for letters of support from the preservation community.

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