The Birth of the Monolithic Dome—A Closer Look

David B. South standing in his newly-constructed dome potato cellar, the first dome ever constructed using Monolithic’s patented construction process. April 1976.

From the very first thoughts of geodesic domes to the invention of the Monolithic Dome and finally the Crenosphere, read the personal story of the history of the Monolithic Dome as told by David B. South in his latest President’s Sphere.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

The central dome — The central dome, 102 feet in diameter and 184 feet in height. Arches at the east and west are buttressed by half-domes. Final domes complete in 563.

Many consider Hagia Sophia the supreme masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Built in 360 and rebuilt several times over the centuries, it still stands.

The History of Thin-Shells and Monolithic Domes

Figure 3 — Hershey Arena Under Construction

In the history of thin-shell structures, four of the major influences are: Anton Tedesko (1903-1994), who is attributed with much of the success of thin-shell structures in the U.S; Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979), who in Italy gave structural integrity to the complex curves and geometry of reinforced-concrete structures such as the Orbetello aircraft hangar (begun 1938) and Turin’s exposition hall (1948-50); and the Spaniard Eduardo Torroja (1891-1961) and his pupil Felix Candela (1910-1997) who followed his lead. Essentially, each of the latter three attempted to create an umbrella roof the interior space of which could be subdivided as required, such as Torroja’s grandstand for the Zarzuela racetrack in Madrid (1935) (, 9/7/05).

The Pantheon – Rome – 126 AD

The Eye — Sunlight beams through the Pantheon’s oculus, down upon a throng of tourists.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) looked at everything with an artist’s critical eye, and he was not easily impressed. But when Michelangelo first saw the Pantheon in the early 1500s, he proclaimed it of “angelic and not human design.” Surprisingly, at that point, this classic Roman temple, converted into a Christian church, was already more than 1350 years old. What’s even more surprising is that the Pantheon, in the splendor Michelangelo admired, still stands today – another 500 years after he saw it. Monolithic’s President David South says that in building Monolithic Domes we have three major advantages the Pantheon’s builders simply did not have.

Dr. Arnold Wilson and the Ream’s Turtle

Ream’s Turtle — Originally named Winter Garden Ice Rink when it debuted at BYU’s 1963 Winter Carnival, the Ream’s Turtle was a triaxial elliptical dome, 240’ long, 160’ wide and 40’ high at its center.

“It was a very good building for a very long time – but that’s progress, I guess,” said Dr. Arnold Wilson about the February 11, 2006 razing of a historic, thin shell concrete dome in Provo, Utah.