Bad concrete is today’s topic. A projector flashes picture after picture of concrete voids, poorly embedded rebar, and a concrete mess all over the ground. It’s Friday afternoon at the Spring 2023 Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop and Gary Clark is giving his presentation, “The Worst Shotcrete Job, Ever.”
It is the story of an inexperienced builder, bad planning, and poor on-site decisions that illustrates important lessons to help avoid problems in the future. This presentation lands particularly well for the 20 workshop students because they are covered in flecks of concrete and dust, having just returned from spraying concrete themselves. This is the core experience of the Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop—a mix of classroom and hands-on instruction.
Gary Clark taught at the first workshop in April 1993—30 years ago—when the late David B. South, co-inventor of the Monolithic Dome, kicked off the first workshop. “Nobody can build all the domes,” David would say. Instead, he gave away the technology to anyone willing to come to Texas to listen—and work.
For workshop alumnus Awi Perkins of Manhattan, repeating the class is his final preparation for beginning his project in New York. He has land near the Delaware River and plans to start a small-dome rental community—similar to Dawson Village, where the workshop is hosted. He’s considering making it part of a 28-day addiction recovery program. He already has the equipment, Airform, and construction experience to accomplish his goal.
Florian Voko is from Albania and currently living in Luxemburg “for refugee reasons,” he said. His mother is from Albania, and his father is Greek. He flew ten hours to the workshop “to build domes.”
“I want to build in Greece,” he said. “I want to build for myself and for a business.”
Greece has a rich history of domed and curved architecture, but not a single Monolithic Dome. Voko plans to change that.
And from the other side of the planet comes Madiid Al Shehri from American Samoa. Shehri has ancestral land available for constructing his own house. Living in a Monolithic Dome home appeals to him because it can stay cool during tropical summers and protect him during a cyclone.
Moreover, it reminds him of historical Samoan architecture. He opens his phone and shows pictures to nearby students of a dome-shaped fale tele (big house) constructed on Samoa of wood beams and thatch. Shehri said, “[His ancestors] understood how to construct hurricane-safe structures.”
And while Dawn Perryman from New Orleans may not have traveled as far, she is no less interested. An elegant, soft-spoken older woman, she talks easily with the instructors and students about her plans and goals. She isn’t planning to do the work herself but wants to learn as much as possible before hiring someone to construct her dome home.
Jeff Murray from Kauai, Hawaii, is here on a mission. He was hired by a non-profit to be a project manager to build three domes—with over 32,000 square feet—for a fire station, vocational center, and a community center.
Murray said 30 years ago, a Category 5 hurricane “whipped the [crap] out of Hawaii.”
He said the Federal Government built a concrete emergency operations center in Kauai, and that’s it. It works, and they are glad it’s there, “But the other island don’t have [crap] like that,” he added.
Murray’s worked for 30 years in construction and as a firefighter for 35—working his way up to fire chief. He worked on the island of Maui. After he retired in 2018, he and his wife moved to her home island of Kauai.
For our teacher, Gary Clark, the workshop is a “shot in the arm” for his own motivation and excitement for building domes. Talking to people about their dreams and aspirations is exciting and fun. Each workshop brings diverse people together who have one thing in common—a love of domes. Past workshop attendees often keep in touch and even work together on projects.
If you are interested in a class that goes way beyond the classroom, you can attend a Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop, too. They are given twice a year—April and September—and are the experience of a lifetime. The next five-day workshop begins September 12, 2023. Visit our Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop page for more information or sign up now.