RANGE: The Geodesic Gnome’s range is functionally determined. Depending upon his needs, abilities, and the ground and climate conditions, he can be virtually anywhere. Design, the prime concern of the Geodesic Gnomes, is not simply what isn’t, nor what is wished for: Design is what should be. Thus, they glimmer and tower from Manhattan’s skyscrapers, all in a (van der) Rohe, to downtown Houston, the best little Bauhaus in Texas.
HABITS: Geodesic Gnomes are the sources of most architectural inspiration, though they have been known to addle the pate of the odd contractor as well. They are small and love to sleep on architects’ scale models, which they demand be executed precisely and completely. Thus, the scale model of anything from a redesigned library to a suburb always looks terrific, however uninhabitable the creation is when rendered in reality. The Gnomes urge bold experimentation and flights of fancy. They inspire dreams, visions—castles in the air, if you will. And castles in the air they get, with very drafty basements. Gossamer-roofed arenas in the snow belt, skywalks that sway in time to music, and mile-high towers that shed their windows like autumn leaves are among their accomplishments. Nor do they neglect interiors— anyone who has hurtled headfirst into a conversation pit or walked smack-dab into a plate glass room-divider has met the Geodesic Gnome. No American architect has gone entirely uninfluenced by them. The genius who first designed Murphy-closets for his clients’ homes (as well as self-dumping drawers) was in the thrall of the Gnome. Legal considerations require that we withhold that architect’s name, but we can tell you he later went on to design the first rotating insurance company headquarters. Buckminster Fuller, perhaps the Gnome’s best known victim, showed this influence clearly in his early design for an underground aviary for tropical fowl, which was built in the late 1950s near Hojo, New Mexico. This subterranean bird house intended to use the heat of adjacent mud springs to cut heating costs; however, the poisonous fumes and solvent properties of the mud first killed all the birds, then caused the entire structure to collapse upon itself. To this day, geysers spewing feathers and steam serve as an example to young architects of the creative influence of the Geodesic Gnomes.
HISTORY: There is no doubting this creature’s Nordic origins. They are as Scandinavian as a shin-ripping coffee table, and Germanic as a looming, trembling cantilever. They were banished from the Teutonic Old World when the Rainbow Bridge to Aasgard, an early construction of theirs, collapsed under a party of returning Valkyries. None of the useful and attractive native dwellings in the North and East of the New World—igloos, long houses, teepees, etc.—appealed to them. But they were truly excited by the sight of the pueblos of the Southwest, which inspired the Gnomes’ great City Planning Breakthrough Idea—the vertical slum. Any Urban Renewal Program which takes a sprawling community of working class people, bulldozes it, and builds in its place a mile high cabinet in which the middle-class can be filed away is the work of the Geodesic Gnome.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: By the presence of any of the following structures and artifacts, one may know that the Geodesic Gnome has been up to his tricks: hexagonal, tin foil toilet seats; an apartment gutted to resemble a loft; a loft baffled to resemble an apartment; square coffee cups; cutting boards of stainless steel and sinks of butcher block; industrial compounds planted on the rich Midwestern loam; poly-ester-pipeline-sprinklered, air-conditioned, domed and doomed farms in the Southwestern desert; the paving-over of forest, field, and stream for a thruway to the Nature World Theme Park. Who but Geodesic Gnomes would build igloos in Arizona?