Architecture and Design

An Hour South of Dallas, The Monolithic Dome Institute Is Preparing for the End of Times

The Taj Mahal, Texas State Capitol and Roman Pantheon put dome-shaped structures on the map, but now people are using those same design elements to build doomsday shelters.

In Italy, Texas, an entire community built of concrete domes can be found at the Monolithic Dome Institute, established in 1996. The “research park,” located 43 miles south of Dallas, features more than 37 different buildings, including founder and president David South’s 2,922-square-foot home, the Charca Casa. On Studio Street, a series of one-bedroom domes are available for rent.

“Contrary to some people’s thinking, this is not a cult,” says the Institute's vice president of sales, Gary Clark. “Primarily those who own homes and live in this neighborhood are principals of the company as well as their families. Mr. South has dedicated most of his life to the development of the Monolithic Dome. Some of his children have an interest in the business and assist in the development of this product and its uses.”

Dome designer Linda Ware lived at Monolithic once as well, until her department shut down and she was rehired as a contract employee. Even though Ware has been designing domes since 1998, she believes their popularity has spiked in the last five years.

“I think people want security and safety; from the environment, because of climate changes and social changes,” she says. “The dome provides that.”

In 2011, The Huffington Post interviewed South after he sold building materials to a “survivalist” for a dome-shaped doomsday shelter. The domes are made with a combination of steel rebar, polyurethane and sprayed concrete, according to the Monolithic Dome Institute website, and their designs meet FEMA standards for earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. They’re also safe from termites, mold, rot and even bullets, and use half as much energy on heating and cooling as conventional homes.

Clark says helping people find a safe place to live is the most rewarding part of his job.

“In Indonesia there is now a village that has been constructed using this technology,” says Clark. “They have no worries of earthquakes, landslides or tsunamis. Another aspect that is exciting for us is the ability to construct large buildings for sports arenas, schools, churches and the like. These buildings are not only super energy efficient but become shelters to the local communities in which they are constructed.”

Do you fear the end is near? Ask about a feasibility study ($549) or build your own dome home after you attend a five-day Monolithic Dome Builders Workshop (for $1,995-$2,495) in April or September of 2017. You’ll participate in completing a dome while learning different building principles and practices. The Institute also hosts a free open house each October. Stop by the gift shop for Tyvek suits and respirators.

The Monolithic Dome Institute is located at 177 Dome Park Place, Italy, Texas. Visit or call 972-483-7423 for more information.
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Mollie Jamison is a freelance writer covering music and culture for the Dallas Observer. She studied journalism and political science at the University of North Texas. In her free time, you'll find her at contemporary art museums and karaoke joints.