Don Tanklage in his 1957 yearbook

In 1957, architecture senior Don Tanklage and his senior project group built the 25-foot tall geodesic dome in Poly Canyon. Today, hammockers relax and bands perform beneath the canopy which initially was intended to be a chapel.

The team built the dome in an attempt to use architect Buckminister Fuller’s geodesic dome design to solve housing issues across the nation. Fuller’s design had been expected to house entire villages in the arctic, architectural instructor Hans Mager told Mustang News in 1957.

The design did not take off, but Tanklage’s legacy now provides affordable housing in a new way.

Lead singer and guitarist of B.A.M.N. performs energetically, delivering some rap verses for the crowd.
Sophia O’Keefe | Mustang News
Sophia O’Keefe | Mustang News

The Tanklage Family Initiative to End Homelessness

Tanklage’s family donated $150,000 to Cal Poly students struggling with housing costs, according to a June 12 press release.

The Tanklage Family Initiative to End Homelessness will be carried out by Cal Poly Cares, a Cal Poly Foundation founded in 2015. The foundation promised $1 million in support over five years to students with unexpected financial needs, University Spokesperson Matt Lazier said.

“I’m beyond grateful to the Tanklage family for partnering with Student Affairs to take on the challenge of erasing student homelessness,” Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said according to the press release.

Cal Poly Cares has provided $213,000 in housing and meal support for 539 students and more than $800,000 in emergency grants.

A 2018 California State University (CSU) study found 10.9 percent of CSU students reported homelessness in the 12 months prior to the study. The authors of the study defined homelessness for college students as living in transitional housing, supportive housing or living on the streets or abandoned buildings, in line with the US Housing and Urban Development definition.

A separate survey of Cal Poly students found 12.3 percent of students to be homeless.

The Tanklage family has supported Cal Poly students since 2006, according to the release, with a $5,000 scholarship to construction management and architecture students.

Tanklage’s Legacy

The year after Tanklage graduated, 60 to 80 students attempted to move the geodesic dome from where Clyde P. Fisher Science Hall (Building 33) now stands to the Robert E. Kennedy Library lawn when an out of control rally near the South Mountain residence halls was broken up. After trying to move the dome with a dairy pick up truck, architecture students armed with lead pipes stopped them.

Don Tanklage housing and construction legacy was defended by architects with lead pipes in 1957. In 2018, three years after his passing, his family continues his legacy by supporting students with housing needs.

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