R.I. Jewelry Maker Seeks to Save Geodesic Dome

When it was announced that a historically significant geodesic dome near the airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, was going to be torn down, local jewelry maker Robert Corio could not stand idly by and watch the structure head for the scrap heap. Instead, he formed an LLC—cleverly named Dome Restoration, LLC—to buy the dome, disassemble it piece by piece, and move it to a new location.

“I feel pretty excited,” Corio said. “We saved the dome.”

Dome sweet dome.

Dome sweet dome.

Hawaii, Sammy Davis Jr. & the RIAC

The dome in question was originally built in 1962, and for many years was used as a maintenance and storage facility for snowplows and other heavy equipment used at Green Airport in Warwick. However, the Rhode Island Airport Commission decommissioned the structure in 2008 when an on-site garage was built at the airport. Now, the dome must come down one way or t’other to make room for a parking lot mandated by a new lease with a major rental car company.

When he heard that the dome was going to be demolished, Corio was more than a little upset. The jeweler says he became enamored with geodesic dome structures in the late 1970s when he lived in Hawaii and attended a concert at a similar structure in Honolulu. The headliner was Sammy Davis Jr., the opening act, in her first major public performance, was some gal named Whitney Houston.

“Nobody knew Whitney Houston [at the time],” Corio said. “I guess there’s always been some connection with the dome.”

Hard Work Ahead

Now, it’s up to Corio and Norman Cook, a partner in Dome Restoration LLC and an architecture and advanced building technology professor at Community College of Rhode Island, to disassemble the dome and find it a new home. Neither task has proved easy thus far.

Corio says he and his team must start on the “real work” of disassembling the dome soon. One major obstacle is that the numerous panels that make up the dome structure itself were connected to each other and the framing structure with a pneumatic rivet nut tool, which uses “riv-nuts” instead of traditional nuts and bolts which can be easily removed. Removing the set-in-place riv-nuts without damaging the panels is a difficult undertaking.

The second major hurdle is finding a new location for the dome. Cook has been in talks with a number of organizations that may want to make use of the structure, including the New England Institute of Technology and the nearby Roger Williams Park Zoo. But, so far, no set plan has been put in place.

So, while Corio still doesn’t have all the withertos and the whyfores figured out, the dome is safe from the wrecking ball.

Photo credit: wdrwilson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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