If we had but a single word, one word only to describe today’s subject, it’d be “funky”. We present to you the “dome home”, south of Calgary and perhaps the strangest dwelling we’ve ever documented. No shortage of personality here! A guarantee – every single person driving past it on nearby roads gives it a double-take. What the…? What’s that odd house? It crossed our minds on seeing it.
I think we need closer look…a couple phone calls later and it’s done…of course, you’re all welcome to tag along.
Like it can’t get any more interesting, the property is also used for the storage of World War Two era aircraft bits and pieces for a local museum. Out back are the remains of planes once used at various air training bases scattered around this part of the province. Parts donors to others under restoration, these old war birds in retirement add another dimension to an already crazy-interesting subject matter. It just came to me…damn, we’re blessed.
The structure dates from the late 1970s and was constructed by the current owner’s father. He sort of built it as he went, not so much following a specific plan, but more so a loose set of ideas and goals. This here, that there, try it out, learn stuff and see how it worked. We wonder, how much does it differ from what he envisioned, or is it spot on? No matter, he sure made something property darn impressive.
The home is comprised of many levels. The main floor is taken up by a large multi-car garage. The date October 1979 is scratched into the concrete there. A kitchen and living room make up the next floor. The two lower domes are bedrooms, the upper more prominent one, an office and work space with a second half-level reached by ladder. They’re made from interlocked triangular panels, and are an incredibly strong form structurally. Supporting it all are posts made from salvaged line poles.
A lot was learned from this project and the builder went on to consult or assist in the construction of other dome homes, one just down the road and others in various parts of the province, in the years that followed. Prefab panels, lots of them, made long ago and I guess once destined to be used in another “dome” project, languish in the field behind the house.
The current owner, Charles, grew up in the building. Old posters depicting planes and trains still adorn the walls of the one dome which was in his youth, his bedroom. A fascination with aircraft remains with him today – he’s in the industry. After his family moved out, the place was rented out, but for the last couple years no one’s called it home. That will soon change as he plans to move back in. In the meantime, an Atco type trailer on site provides temporary accommodation.
The inside of the building is mostly empty. Still some reminders of people living here, odd bits and stuff simply left behind, remain. A couple roof leaks have caused water damage and need to be fixed but overall the building is not in terrible shape. Of course it’ll need to be fixed up, brought up to spec, but that’s expected when doing renovations anyway. We hope to see it when done. Should be something!
Sitting outside are a number 1970s/1980s vintage Peugeot Cars. These belong to the owner’s brother, who is a collector. This was never a a common make here in Canada, although to wander about here, one might think otherwise. Looks like he’s got the market cornered! The fellow owns even more, which we hope to check out at some other time. Next time!
One every rural chunk of land there’s a “special” spot out back somewhere, that becomes a repository for old metal and things no longer needed. You know, retired cars, car parts, miscellaneous odds and ends too big to fit in the trash…okay, junk…that sort of stuff. And this place is no exception. Some snowmobiles in retirement and an old tricycle hold our attention. Things are generally placed here to be forgotten about, but they seem to be a magnet for strange people with cameras. “Is that another photographer hanging around the junk pile?” “Ohhh s**t, the BIGDoer people!” “Get my gun!”
Those airplanes. There’s no complete ones, rather it’s just fuselages, tail assemblies, wings, bits and pieces, this and that, all belonging to the Nanton Bomber Command Museum not far away. The remains are almost exclusively made up of World War Two era training aircraft, Avro Ansons with some Bristol Bolingbrokes (also called a Blenheims) thrown in for good measure. Both these models were extensively used in the Commonwealth Air Training Program, and were stationed at the many bases that once operated all over the southern half of the province. These flying-schools trained huge numbers of pilots, navigators, radio technicians, bomber techs and such, needed by allied forces.
After hostilities ended these now surplus planes were often sold off to farmers who stripped off whatever parts were useful to them (darn resourceful people), the left overs, usually fuselage and wings, being set aside out back somewhere to rot. Later, many were returned and donated to museums. Complete aircraft were made by combining parts from many. The Nanton Museum has one example of each aircraft mentioned, on display or under restoration. No doubt bits were sourced from the very aircraft bones we just explored.
Both the Anson and Bolingbroke were made in Canada (Federal Aircraft Montreal for the former and Fairchild Aircraft of Longueuil, the latter), to UK design, in support of the war effort. Some twenty eight hundred and six hundred were built in this country, respectively.
North of the property is an art display called Gravitas, made up of Anson airframes pulled from that back-forty collection we’ve been speaking of. We visited it and chatted with the artist who conceived it a few months back. It’s a stunning piece. Check out the link.
Also seen in the mix are a couple old Dodge pickups that came in from one or another of the bases mentioned. An unfinished kit built amphibious aircraft, more modern in era, can also be found nearby. It’s a boat and plane all in one. Very interesting!
Night falls and we’ve no where exhausted the photo possibilities. In fact, we didn’t even scratch the “proverbial” surface. I’m thinking this place could use a revisit. That’s if the owner will have us. I can hear it now…“Sigh…not you guys again!” “Okay, get in and out, and let me be!” Scatter-brain mode on – speaking of night time, we really need to bone up on our shooting technique in low light. More practice is definitely needed. Anyone out there willing to help? (…sounds of crickets chirping).
From Dictionary.com: Geodesic Dome – a domed or vaulted structure of straight elements that form interlocking polygons. Now you know!
Notes: The editor wouldn’t let me call this post “Dome on the Range”. No doubt jealousy on not being this clever the reason for it.
Airplane art (in case you missed the first link)…
Gravitas, by Keith Harder.
A previous visit, from the road, long ago…
Plane art and the geodesic home.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: September, 2016.
Location: South of Calgary AB.
Article references (and thanks): Charles L., Nanton Bomber Command Museum Nanton Alberta.
The site is private property, please respect that. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.