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Tuazon Great Lakes Water School installation
Tuazon Great Lakes Water School installation

An installation view of Oscar Tuazon’s “Great Lakes Water School” at the third Chicago Architecture Biennial.
(Tom Harris / Chicago Architecture Biennial)

Chicago —  

Los Angeles artist Oscar Tuazon will not forget the day he called up inventor and builder Steve Baer to talk about domes.

It was about 15 years ago and Tuazon had become intrigued by a 1971 dome construction manual called “Domebook 2.” Written by author and builder Lloyd Kahn, who’d served as shelter editor for the counterculture bible Whole Earth Catalog in the 1960s, the book awakened a latent interest in dome architecture for Tuazon, who comes from a family of dome builders in Washington state. Further research led him to Baer, who was famous for building a dome-inspired house outside of Corrales, N.M., known as the Zome Home.

“He tried to warn me off it,” says Tuazon. “He was like, ‘It’ll ruin your life.’ But here I am.”

“There are a lot of reasons domes have not become a typology,” he says with a laugh. “But some of us never learn.”

For years after the call with Baer, Tuazon kicked around ideas inspired by the zome compound that Baer built for himself in the high desert. The zome’s unique form was inspired by a fusion of the dome and the zonohedron, a type of complex polyhedron (basically, a dome that has been bent and stretched so that it has vertical walls and a nonspherical shape). Baer took that form and made a home that is solar efficient — insulated by drums of water that are warmed by the sun during the day and keep the structure warm at night.

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