Amanda Sari Perez on winning this month’s A2Awesome grant, and the geodesic dome she’s built with the money

    Today, the trustees of A2Awesome handed over $1,000 to Amanda Sari Perez for the creation of an enormous geodesic dome, which she hopes will serve as a platform on which others in the community can express their creativity. Following is my interview with her.

    MARK: To start out, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you came to be involved with All Hands Active, Maker Works, etc?

    AMANDA: Three of my greatest loves are well-designed technology (my daily job involves improving the design of brain implants), artistic expression, and building a creative community that enriches its members. This last one didn’t really come about until after college, when an institution no longer directed me toward accomplishment and conventional culture provided no ready replacement.

    Back in 2009, I was fortunate enough to know others who also wanted to empower individuals through making. Together, we co-founded the hackerspace All Hands Active, which offers physical tools, a workspace, and perhaps best of all, the human resource of expertise from other community members.

    In the past year or two, I’ve become more involved with another group called Syncytium, and these are the people with whom I’ve been working on large scale public projects, combining art and technology. We initially banded together for Burning Man (the annual, temporary city in the Nevada desert, which is never easy to describe, but suffice to say it is a physical, social, and creative challenge). However, this year, the majority of us aren’t going out to the desert, and we’re instead focused on adding to the creative culture of our home turf. Because of our need for larger industrial tools, we came over to Maker Works and A2MechShop to help construct our geodesic dome and other projects.

    MARK: How would you describe the Dome?

    AMANDA: From a structural perspective, the dome is a partial sphere, comprised of many triangles to approximate the curve. The mathematics behind the design were developed by Buckminister Fuller about 60 years ago, and not only is it an elegant structure, it is remarkably strong — apparently the only man-made structure that gets stronger the bigger you build it (if you can trust hearsay on the internet). All the better that it can be built and broken down to be transportable.

    From a usage perspective, the dome is a versatile space which can be interactive or simply serve as a unique enclosure for events. It can be used as a jungle gym. It is durable enough to support people, hammocks, cargo nets, or even aerial performers. It is an open framework that can easily be decorated, lit up, or covered.

    MARK: How did the “Dome Sweet Dome” idea come to you?

    AMANDA: Syncytium members have seen a lot of domes go up at Burning Man. The harsh desert environment and up-to-70mph-winds require a structure whose strength has been tried and test. Our group knew that among our large structures, we wanted to have one that people could climb. Also, at one of the events we’re bringing it to, we wanted it to be big enough to host a DJ and dance floor.

    MARK: Where will it be deployed?

    AMANDA: The dome saw its first test build yesterday, at the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire. After cutting, pressing, and punching holes through 250 pieces of conduit, we hope it was a good example of a durable DIY structure.

    It will also be at Lakes of Fire and Figment, both of which are events that celebrate the arts, community, creativity, and resourceful use of materials.

    It has the potential to be assembled for events around Ann Arbor as a pretty enclosure, or performances. (We’re interested in anyone else who is interested in using it.)

    My eventual goal is that it can have a long-term home, and there we can turn it into a large, full-body immersive musical instrument. The elements of this will have to go through trial and error when the dome is up, but the beginning idea for now is to have bungee cords for people to clamber or tug on to trigger sound, either mechanically or electrically.

    MARK: What will the $1000 from A2Awesome be used for?

    AMANDA: The $1000 will go directly to offsetting the cost of the conduit – about $1,500 total. We chose a thicker, and therefore more expensive, sized conduit to ensure that this beast would be strong enough to support the weight of many people. In the bigger picture, the dome is one in a variety of Syncytium’s large scale interactive art projects.

    MARK: How will Dome Sweet Dome increase local awesomeness?

    AMANDA: To my knowledge, there aren’t any other geodesic domes in Ann Arbor. And we want to make this readily available for other organizations or private parties! I’m excited to see what unexpected uses other folks might want it for. Once it is a large, interactive musical instrument, it would be awesome if it could stand in a public place and serve as one of Ann Arbor’s cultural icons.

    MARK: What are the dimensions of the Dome? Does it approximate the size of the Fuller’s Dymaxion House?

    AMANDA: The dome is 16ft tall and 32ft across. I’m not sure what the size of a typical Fuller’s Dymaxion House is, but judging from photos, our dome seems to be a bit smaller.

    If you have a great idea, and would like to apply in our next A2Awesome funding round, you can do so here.

    [photo caption: A2Awesome Trustees Linh Song, Alice Liberson, Lisa Dengiz, Paul Saginaw, Heather MacKenzie and Dick Soble, with Amanda Sari Perez (third from left)]

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      5 Comments

      1. Edward
        Posted June 4, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        Two ideas.

        One. Pack snow around it, using it as the frame for a giant igloo. Build a nice, little fire inside of it. It would be beautiful.

        Two. Put it downtown, full of hammocks, encouraging people to take mid-day naps.

      2. anonymous
        Posted June 4, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        Portable planetarium?

      3. Knox
        Posted June 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        My four part plan…… Turn it upside down, cover it with plastic, fill it with water, populate it with sharks.

      4. Knox
        Posted June 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Also, if you haven’t noticed yet, there’s something on AnnArbor.com about the grant.

        http://www.annarbor.com/entertainment/syncytium-receives-1000-a2awesome-grant-for-geodesic-dome-project/

      5. cmadler
        Posted June 29, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        According to the Henry Ford Museum, the Dymaxion House is about 1,100 square feet, which means a radius of about 18 feet, 9 inches (compared to about 800 square feet for this geodesic dome, which has a 16 foot radius).

        The Dymaxion House is also not a simple dome. It’s a cylindrical living area (walls are curved but vertical, not angled) with a roof that’s domed near the outside, but then curving upwards and rising to a spire at the middle. Structurally, the Dymaxion House hangs down from the central strut, somewhat like a tent (e.g. Sibley tent) or a hoop skirt rather than most houses which are built up from the ground (e.g. load-bearing walls or a steel frame).

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