Snapshot: ASM International World Headquarters
Russell Township, Ohio
The Chesler Group with Dimit Architects
The dome is a marvel, but as an adult, Chesler was more struck by the Mid-Century modern building beneath it, designed by Gropius prot'g' John Terence Kelly. The two were built in 1959 to serve as the headquarters of ASM International, a member-led society for the materials science and engineering professions.“When I was six, man was going to the moon, and I swore this was a space pavilion,” says Michael Chesler, who grew up exploring this R. Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome in Russell Township, Ohio.
A few years ago, Chesler, now president of the Chesler Group, a Cleveland-based historic property developer, learned that the building was in serious disrepair and an economic drain. ASM was ready to move to a Chicago office park. “No, you’re not,” Chesler told them. He campaigned to get the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places and used the resulting tax credits to disassemble and renovate the building, removing more recent ad hoc office walls and asbestos, recaulking and reglazing all 260 windows, and restoring the stainless steel solar shades, among other things. ASM’s operating costs have been reduced by half, says Chesler. The dome itself was in excellent condition. Aside from its needing better grounding—“it gets hit by lightning quite a bit”—its bolts get tightened every so often.
At Black Mountain College in the late 1940s, Fuller developed German engineer Walther Bauersfeld’s geodesic dome. The spherical, hollow-shell structures made up of many interconnected triangles were strong but lightweight. Although the domes were adopted and adapted by hippies and the U.S. State Department alike, Fuller saw them as mass production for the greater good: How could geometry cure the world’s ills? The ASM headquarters remains a vibrant symbol of that exploration.