CHARAS: The Improbable Dome Builders by Syeus Mottel
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Publisher: Pioneer Works Press / The Song Cave
Edition: Second (originally published in 1973)
A fascinating account of six ex-gang members who constructed a geodesic dome on a vacant lot in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge after a 1970 meeting with the celebrated and revolutionary architect R. Buckminster Fuller.
Originally published in 1973, this publication speaks to the issues at the heart of the CHARAS project as gentrification seems to multiply faster than communities can work to preserve themselves against it. The book acts as a record to highlight ways people have united to activate empty spaces. As a group, CHARAS was interested in physically altering the housing conditions in their immediate neighborhood, the Lower East Side. Influenced by Bucky’s teachings, the young men of CHARAS began a period of devoted study to solid geometry, spherical trigonometry, and the principles of dome building. Following this period, CHARAS developed a program that encouraged community autonomy and the reclaiming of public space.
More than simply a documentation of the project, the book offers stories, profiles, interviews, and images, and the group’s process from their intensive study to the obstacles they faced while physically constructing domes.