The bubble house, and how NASA agreed to help

Inventor and architect Graham Birchall’s bubble doesn’t burst easily.
 Once he has an idea he just keeps going until he works out how to do it.
How Graham thought outside the box

When it came to his own residence in Karalee, he was thinking outside the box.

“The circle is a strong shape. I designed it and built it,” he said.

“My father-in-law, Ed Bohl, and I built the house on weekends. We started on Father’s Day 1983 and finished on Fathers Day 1993.”

Thinking in circles instead of the traditional square created many challenges.

“We’ve had to invent a lot of things as we went along,” Graham said.

“The structure has 350,000 wire ties. Normally you’d do it with a pair of pliers, but what we did was get a pair of vice grips and put them in a drill. My father-in-law was on the outside he’d push the tie through, I’d clamp it on with the grip drill.

“We even made our own wire ties and everything. We used to do it at night during the week. We had to make our tools to make those too. We created a curved ladder. We curved the verticals and hung them down from the skylight.”

How NASA (sort of) helped

The house is made up of 11 domes that are all interconnected and create 16 rooms. Each dome has its own skylight.

The domes are built using a Ferrocement, a material Graham adapted into a building material for the domes. It is a method that uses steel wires covered in a thin layer of cement.

Graham meets every challenge that the Bubble House has thrown his way.

You can’t just pop down the shop to buy blinds that will fit the windows, so Graham pondered the problem.

“It was about 10 o’clock at night when I remembered that NASA’s Mars Rover had one of these things on it. So I thought to myself, they might be able to help me with that.

“So I rang them up,” he said.

“They said, this is our email address. Put down what you want and I’ll send it to you.

“Within two days I had the drawings of the Mars Rover. It didn’t help me at all but I’ll still amazed that they released it to me.”

The solution in the end is to create shutters, similar to the iris of a camera.

A place of fascination

Having a house in the shape of a bunch of bubbles is a source of fascination.

Ipswich resident Kasey Taege, recently wrote on The Bubble House Facebook page.

“I always loved driving past the bubble house as a kid and now my kids love seeing it as well.”

Graham said: “People come to look all the time. On the weekends it’s like a traffic jam outside. We put a gate across otherwise some people would drive right up to the house.

“Then you get your bus tours, they stop outside and all the tourists get off and go click, click, click. We get asked if the venue is for hire.”

Before you ask – no it isn’t.

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  1. Dear Graham, My Nephew is a young engineer and I would love to send him a copy of a book if you have one on the bubble house.

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