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MS World Discoverer, Roderick Bay, Nggela Islands

The Cape Romano Dome Homes, located on the southern tip of Marco Island in Florida, are a fascinating and unusual architectural landmark. Built in the early 1980s, these homes have captured the public’s imagination due to their distinctive design and the environmental challenges they face.

History and Construction

Architect and Builder: The dome homes were constructed by Bob Lee, a retired oil producer who envisioned a futuristic and self-sustaining home. Lee was inspired by the concept of dome architecture, which is known for its strength and energy efficiency.

Design and Materials: The homes were made of concrete, creating a series of connected domes. This design was chosen for its durability and energy efficiency. The elevated design and the shape of the domes were intended to withstand hurricanes and other severe weather conditions.

Self-Sustainability Features: The original design included solar panels, a rainwater collection system, and a self-sufficient energy supply. These features were ahead of their time and reflected a growing interest in sustainable living practices.

Environmental Challenges

Erosion and Rising Sea Levels: Over the decades, the Cape Romano area has experienced significant coastal erosion and rising sea levels. These environmental changes have dramatically altered the landscape around the dome homes.

Storm Damage: The homes have faced numerous hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. These storms caused significant damage to the structures and contributed to their abandonment.

Submersion: Due to ongoing erosion and rising water levels, the dome homes are now partially submerged. What was once a stretch of land now lies under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Cultural and Historical Significance

Architectural Curiosity: The dome homes have become an architectural curiosity and a point of interest for both locals and tourists. Their unique design and the story of their construction attract visitors, photographers, and history enthusiasts.

Symbol of Environmental Change: The gradual submersion of the dome homes serves as a stark reminder of the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. They are often cited in discussions about coastal erosion and environmental preservation.

Local Landmark: Despite their dilapidated state, the dome homes are a significant part of local history. They reflect a time of innovation and forward-thinking in home design and sustainable living.

Current Status and Future Prospects

Abandonment: The homes have been abandoned for many years and are no longer habitable. The state of Florida has deemed them unsafe, and access to the site is restricted.

Preservation and Documentation: Various efforts have been made to document the homes through photographs, videos, and historical records. These efforts aim to preserve the memory of the dome homes even as they continue to deteriorate.

Debates on Restoration: There have been discussions about whether the dome homes should be restored or left to be reclaimed by nature. Restoration would be costly and complicated due to the ongoing environmental challenges in the area.

Impact and Lessons

Architectural Innovation: The Cape Romano Dome Homes are a testament to innovative architectural thinking. They reflect a period when new forms of design and sustainability were being explored.

Environmental Awareness: The fate of the dome homes underscores the importance of considering environmental factors in construction and urban planning. They highlight the vulnerabilities of coastal structures to climate change.

Cultural Legacy: The homes have left a lasting cultural legacy, inspiring discussions about architecture, sustainability, and environmental change. They remain a poignant symbol of the intersection between human ingenuity and the forces of nature.

In summary, the Cape Romano Dome Homes are an intriguing part of Florida’s architectural and environmental history. They stand as a reminder of both the potential and the challenges of innovative design, as well as the relentless power of natural forces.

Detailed History and Background

Bob Lee’s Vision:

Inspiration: Bob Lee, the builder, was inspired by dome-shaped architecture, which is known for its efficiency and resistance to natural disasters. He was particularly drawn to the potential of creating a sustainable and futuristic home that could withstand the elements.

Construction Timeline: Construction began in 1980 and was completed in 1982. The project involved hauling in materials by boat and setting the domes on concrete stilts to elevate them above potential floodwaters.

Innovative Features:

Solar Power: At a time when solar technology was not widely used, Lee integrated solar panels to provide electricity, making the homes partially self-sufficient.

Rainwater Collection: The domes were equipped with a system to collect and store rainwater, addressing water needs without relying on external sources.

Natural Cooling and Heating: The dome shape helped regulate temperatures inside the homes by promoting air circulation, reducing the need for mechanical cooling and heating systems.

Architectural and Design Elements

Structural Integrity:

Dome Shape: The dome shape is inherently strong and distributes stress evenly, making it highly resistant to wind and other environmental pressures. This design choice was intended to provide durability and longevity.

Materials: The homes were constructed using a mixture of concrete and sand, providing a robust exterior capable of withstanding harsh weather conditions.

Interior Layout:

Open Spaces: The interiors of the domes featured open floor plans with minimal interior walls, enhancing the feeling of spaciousness and allowing for flexible use of space.

Windows and Natural Light: Large windows were strategically placed to maximize natural light and provide panoramic views of the surrounding environment.

Environmental Challenges and Impact

Coastal Erosion:

Initial Conditions: When built, the dome homes were situated on a large stretch of land. However, erosion quickly began to encroach upon the property.

Progressive Submersion: Over the years, the shoreline receded dramatically, with the homes gradually becoming surrounded by water. Today, the structures stand offshore, partially submerged.

Hurricanes and Storms:

Hurricane Andrew (1992): This major hurricane caused significant damage to the domes, illustrating the challenges of building in hurricane-prone areas.

Hurricane Irma (2017): Irma further damaged the structures, eroding more of the surrounding land and contributing to their current dilapidated state.

Broader Implications for Architecture and Environmental Resilience

Lessons in Sustainable Design:

Innovative Solutions: The dome homes showcased forward-thinking approaches to sustainable living, including solar power and rainwater harvesting. These features remain relevant as architects seek to design resilient, eco-friendly homes.

Adaptability: The concept of dome-shaped architecture continues to be explored for its benefits in energy efficiency and disaster resistance.

Climate Change Awareness:

Rising Sea Levels: The submersion of the dome homes is a vivid example of the impact of rising sea levels, highlighting the need for climate-resilient building practices in coastal areas.

Environmental Planning: The homes underscore the importance of considering long-term environmental changes in urban planning and construction. They serve as a cautionary tale for future developments in vulnerable regions.

Cultural and Educational Value:

Architectural Landmark: Despite their current state, the dome homes continue to draw interest for their unique design and the story behind their construction.

Educational Resource: The homes are often used in discussions and studies on sustainable architecture, environmental resilience, and the effects of climate change.

Preservation Efforts and Future Prospects

Documentation and Research:

Photographic Archives: Numerous photographers and historians have documented the dome homes, capturing their changing state over the decades.

Academic Interest: The homes are frequently studied in architecture and environmental science programs, providing real-world examples of innovative design and environmental impact.

Community and Government Involvement:

Local Interest: There is significant local interest in preserving the memory of the dome homes, with various community groups advocating for their historical significance.

Governmental Challenges: Due to safety concerns and the cost of restoration, the state has largely focused on restricting access rather than investing in preservation or restoration efforts.

Potential Restoration:

Feasibility Studies: Some architects and engineers have proposed restoration projects, but these face significant financial and logistical hurdles.

Alternative Uses: Ideas have been floated to repurpose the domes as part of an educational or ecological center, but no concrete plans have materialized.


The Cape Romano Dome Homes stand as a unique chapter in architectural history, reflecting both the potential of innovative design and the inexorable power of nature. They serve as a reminder of the importance of sustainable and resilient building practices, particularly in the face of climate change. While their future remains uncertain, the legacy of the dome homes continues to inspire and educate, offering valuable lessons for architects, planners, and environmentalists around the world.

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