Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Dymaxion House: Technological Efficiency vs. Human Values

Dr Denise Pilato.

By examining both form and function of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House and the lifestyle it promoted, paradoxes and tension are evident, which consistently underscore contemporary values. Fuller’s philosophy asserted “the only way to design houses was to do so according to industrial methods of machine process.” His Dymaxion House could be compared as the equivalent in the housing industry to what Henry Ford’s Model T was in the automotive world. But his “machine for living” was not only an economic response to a demand for inexpensive housing. Fuller’s cultural beliefs and standards about technological progress reveal ideas about standardization beyond the concept of mass production and prefabrication. His Dymaxion House was conceived as a “machine for living.”

Today, to an even greater degree, the relationship between humans and machines begs the question, what has become our “machine for living”? A new definition of “machine living” has evolved into a lifestyle that has reached a point of no return. Fuller expressed his ideas about hope, individualism, identity, and family values in the Dymaxion House. How do we reconcile such a progressive vision with the concept of mass produced housing built upon strict principles of standardization? What do our houses and domestic lifestyles say about our vision of technological progress?

Objects and images from the Dymaxion House, along with an interactive database of post-World War II advertisements from popular magazines, form the visual core of this presentation. Objects from the digital database are utilized to illustrate a core tension between technological efficiency and human values with a focus on interdisciplinary connections


Dr Denise Pilato  (United States)
Professor, Interdisciplinary Technology
Interdisciplinary Technology Department
Eastern Michigan University

Denise Pilato received her PhD from Michigan State University in American Studies. She currently is an Assistant Professor at Eastern Michigan University where she teaches History of Technology, Technology and Culture, and Technology and Gender in the Masters of Liberal Studies program in Interdisciplinary Technology. Both her teaching and research methodology rely on the use of primary documentation with a focused study on the social impact of technology. Her recent publication, The Retrieval of a Legacy: Nineteenth Century Women Inventors, places women inventors in an historical and cultural context.

  • Social impact of technology
  • Human values
  • Machine for living
  • Material culture
  • Form and function
  • Dymaxion House
Person as Subject
  • Fuller, Buckminster

(60 min. Workshop, English)