There are few people in Buffalo that have the drive and persistence of hexagon builder Michael Weekes. From his Buckminster Fuller-inspired boathouse and RV camper, to his natural obsession with icosahedrons, dodecahedrons and tetrahedrons, the inventor/builder/thinker/dreamer continues to search for ways to promote building in Buffalo, using anything but squares and rectangles. The following article is by Michael Weekes:
As I build one dome model (made if triangles) after another, mimicking natures water droplets, pine cones, lotus flowers and the like, two shapes reveal themselves regularly. The pentagon and the hexagon. The hexagon, most familiar to us in the form of the honeycomb, demonstrates how efficient and effective frameworks for dwelling can be. Bees build this way because it makes sense. It can for us too.
Now comes yet another micro dwelling project from developer Rocc0 Termini, for students at Oak and Elm (check it out). Surely there must be a more organic solutions than eighty 500 square foot boxes (among boxes) within one big rectangle. Of course there is. It is the hexagon, and there is a very local, familiar, element of nature that reminds us come winter. It is snow and ice – one of our brands. Since there are a good dozen states of snow and ice, nature gives us many arrangements of these hydrogen and oxygen elements to enjoy.
What better way than to utilize the building blocks of our nemesis we know as winter, by creating housing solutions? Why not populate our vacant acres of land with lovely, natural building arrangements of triangles, hexagons and pentagons? In fact, if you make the dwelling units shaped like any of the basic solids, other than the cube, you gain as much as 30% more “livingry ” per square foot of floor area. Icosahedrons, dodecahedrons and tetrahedrons fit together more efficiently than the dreadfully boring cube. Building with triangles, hexagons and pentagons can use less than half the materials, greenhouse gases, weigh half as much, and be less than half the price. Isn’t that what all the Albany programs on alternative energy use hope for?
These “weird” solids are more robust than the cube, when it comes to surviving (yes, that’s right) snow load. If we have to drive by yet another housing “solution” by one of our predominant developers, can’t it at least be new and useful? Embrace the elements that are what the Buffalo Medical Campus is all about. Let nature, in all her efficiency and beauty inform us of what our urban landscape should look like. Let’s learn from the weeds that struggle up from the cracks in our freshly poured perfectly rectangular sidewalks! See The Rainforest Book. We bring Silicon Valley pioneers here to tell us how to transform a city, yet we continue to build rectangular boxes for living. You don’t have to go far to find hexagons. Just look at BRO’s article on the Sandbox Program. They’re everywhere, because they work and they are affordable.
Finally, we can give youth, of all ages hands on, experiential learning, as we build these new and useful structures, resulting in STEaM projects and secondary project-based learning. How fitting is that?
Michael R Weekes is a citizen architect (BSIE SUNY at Buffalo 1984) who yearns to develop new, natural and robust housing and other structures, leveraging 1960s principles combined with 21st Century materials, technologies and processes.