Building a Sculptural Dome

The electrical box

Here is the completed foundation with the electrical box, now we’re ready to tie some bar.

A builder was contracted to put in the foundation.  The advantage of this for me was that the builder was able to organize all the trades to get the project started.  Through him I got the plumber, the electrician, the geologist and the sewage system contractors that were required to get the project off the ground.  With the well and sewage system in and relationships with trades secured I could now carry on as an owner builder. The one thing I wish I had done was sign a contract with the builder…it cost way more then his original quote!






Learning how to tie together the rebar, road mesh and metal lath.

The concept for the sculptural dome came from a movie sculptor I was working with in 2003. It was Bob who steered me toward the engineer he used to make large water features to get my design in shape for the permit process. In fact Bob had said he would build the dome when I was ready but now its 2007 and Bob has moved from the valley to the city to be a full time movie sculptor. With Bob unavailable for the project we had to settle for a sculptural tutorial in the back yard.




Three tiers of scaffolding enabled us to pull up and attach the 60′ lengths of rebar.

It was great to have access to Bobs experience and expertise. It was Bob who  figured out the amount of materials we would need for the 38′ diameter metal frame getting us off to a confident start.  With the materials on site we began the process of figuring out how to erect the initial form grid.  To make the structure self supporting we grided up ten feet on the sides then started swinging up 60′ lengths and securing them with rebar circles at the top.







The final step for the form grid, tying on the metal lath.

Securing the 6’road mesh to the rebar added further support and allowed us to work on top of the structure to secure the metal lath.  The lath replaces forms when working with shot-crete, its the metal lath that receives this specialty cement and creates the shell of the dome.

Doing the final preparations for the pour.

We had to have everything in place before the shotcrete arrived, doors,windows,stove pipe,air vents.

The sculptural dome is a truly monolithic structure. We went from spaceship to fully formed house in two days. The bracing you see inside the structure is plastic wrapped 2’x10′ lumber that would eventually be used as beams for the second floor.




Shot-crete being blown onto the form grid.

We had to build a temporary road around the dome for the gene lift and a platform around the foundation.  Shotcrete is blown on with a giant hose so all areas of the form surface had to be accessable.

Creating the 2″ skin.


On day one ten yards of shot-crete was blown onto the form grid to create an eggshell skin to support the next days thirty two yard monolithic pour.





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