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Homes for the Homeless – Tunnel Rings Saved, Part 3

This is part 3 of an ongoing series (going on till it gets done – or I can’t go any further) about Van Gogh’s Bedroom, a plan to create “Homes for the Homeless” in INTERdependent live/work communities using surplus city-owned materials (tunnel rings). 

Said the “B” ring to the “A” ring

“What goes on around here?”

Said the “A” ring to the “B” ring

“It does look rather queer”

Said the “B” ring to the “A” ring

“Don’t keep me in suspense”

Said the “A” ring to the “B” ring

“You do look rather tense”….

R. Buckminster Fuller

The Dymaxion House

On August 24th of last year, I was in Detroit to ask the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners (BOWC) for their assistance in procuring millions of dollars worth of precast concrete tunnel segments (rings) that the Detroit Water & Sewerage Dept. (DWSD) owns, and planned to destroy, to build 500-600 round, 346 square-foot single-occupancy “homes for the homeless” in supportive live/work communities in Detroit. The rings are labeled A rings and B rings.

That morning, while checking out of a hotel in Melvindale, an “angel” pulled a copy of the round home design from the armful of papers I was carrying and tossed it on the floor. I picked it up and showed it to the clerk. She immediately directed me to The Henry Ford two miles down the road to see Buckminster Fuller’s round Dymaxion House. I rushed down there, found the above poem, and later that afternoon, with strengthened inspiration, read the poem to the BOWC and asked for the segments.

Remarkably, on August 22, almost one year later to the day, I would read the poem to the BOWC again. This time the rings were in the process of being ground up into gravel to backfill an abandoned tunnel shaft.

Two days later, and one year to the day from first seeing the Dymaxion House, I received a call from Evan Weiner, CEO of the Edward C. Levy Co. (an aggregate supplier) and Chairman of the Board of The Henry Ford! He has generously offered to supply DWSD’s contractor with the aggregate they need, at cost, providing DWSD with a cost-effective alternative to destroying the segments. Ironically, Levy has an aggregate yard adjacent to the location where the aggregate is needed.

You can’t make this stuff up!

In addition, the design for Van Gogh’s Bedroom has been short listed in the Building Trust International (BTI) design competition to create a $30,000 single-occupancy home for an urban area of a developed country. The winner will be announced on Sept. 15th. You can check out the short listed entries at: Please “like” us, but don’t leave any comments telling them who we are; it’s a secret. The design is called “One Form – Many Functions.”

The construction management firm of E. Gilbert & Sons has graciously offered to assist with preparing cost estimates and construction documents to build a model home.

We are still looking for some additional corporate sponsors to help build a demonstration home.

Editor’s Note: since this article was published the city has continued with the destruction of the segments. Jim is still in negotiation with them to reserve a portion of them for the project.

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