From the moment I saw the below sketch, I loved it. I have always been incredibly attracted to anything related to flying, so I naturally needed to share Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao’s “Cloud Nine” project.

Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller was an American architect/engineer whose height of invention was between the 1930s and the 1950s. He envisioned structures that we would refer to today as “green,” meaning they attempted to address environmental and social issues in their design.

Fuller was later challenged by a wealthy Japanese patron, Matsutaro Shoriki, to design a community that could float on Tokyo Bay. Shoriki wanted a solution for Japan’s crowding and imagined boats joined together to make a floating city, not too dissimilar from the Freedom Ship that was once under development. Bucky responded to Shoriki’s challenge with the Spherical Tensegrity Atmospheric Research Station (STARS), also called “Cloud Nines.” Though never constructed, these massive, buoyant, geodesic spheres would be filled with hot air and float over Earth. (read the full article here)

Fig. 02 Image from Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao’s “Cloud Nine” project, ca. 1960

“These enormous space stations depicted floating eerily over the mountain peaks would seem to be from the world of science-fiction fantasy. But these Floating Geodesic Spheres are viable aircraft that could be realised with today’s technology, according to their designer R. Buckminster Fuller, the renowned inventor, architect author, and philosopher. Although resembling a space-age craft, these spheres, patented by Fuller in 1967, actually would function on the same aerodynamic principle as the hot-air balloon of yesteryear. Called tensegrity (tensional integrity) spheres, the structure is to be built of aluminium spars strung together in triangular and hexagonal space frame unites to form a sphere measuring a hand mile in diameter. Over this rigid skeleton would be stretched a double-layer plastic skin that would act as a kind of oneway solar mirror.” (text from Fantastic Architecture)

“Fuller regarded his Cloud Nine idea as an “exercise to stimulate imaginative thinking.” While he believed the technique was possible, he didn’t think these flying cities actually would be constructed until the far future.”


American architect, inventor, and futurist Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983) raises his arms as he poses in front of a massive geodesic dome, Long Beach, California, April 21, 1983. (Photo by Bob Riha Jr./Getty Images)