It’s hard to miss Philippe LeBlond’s house while driving down Lewes Boulevard: just look for the enormous dome built out of bicycle rims.
“It’s the home with the dome,” quips the 44-year-old mechanic-cum-artist.
He’s been chipping away at the project for the past two weeks. It’s now nearly complete.
LeBlond’s made several similar domes since 2004. This one is the biggest, measuring five metres in diameter.
It’s strong enough for him to clamber up and stand on. And he can enter the dome through a single rim that’s been stripped of its spokes.
The rims are lashed together with plastic cable-ties. For a while, the dome “was all hairy,” with the black straps poking out. LeBlond’s since trimmed the loose ends off.
He’s happy to leave the dome open to interpretation. It encircles a paper birch tree, which is already looking a little cramped for space.
Is it a tree imprisoned by technology? Surrounded by a biosphere?
LeBlond will let you be the judge.
He can’t remember precisely how he came up with the idea. It was likely inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s famous geodesic domes.
They’re built of triangles. LeBlond got thinking about how overlapping bike rims form triangles, too.
Acquiring old bike rims wasn’t a problem. LeBlond owned a bike shop at the time, which has since changed hands to become Cadence Cycle. He’s collected “well over 1,000” rims over the past five years.
LeBlond is now the proprietor of All in Vane Manufacturing. As the name implies, he makes custom weather vanes, but his most popular item are wall hangings cut from scrap metal in the shape of ravens.
“But mostly people call me Philippe, the bicycle dome guy.”
LeBlond’s first dome was 3.5 metres wide and built with one-third as many rims as the current project. It was first assembled in front of the Yukon Arts Centre, and later rebuilt on his front yard, where it remained for over a year.
This earlier dome got enough publicity that French tourists told LeBlond they had read about it in their home country. He eventually pulled it apart to build a bike-rim fence for his bike shop.
More recently, LeBlond erected a dome in Dawson City during this year’s arts festival. Now it’s back in his yard.
LeBlond expects this new dome to remain in his yard for a long time to come -“I hope decades.”
The public response has been overwhelming positive. Even teenage boys – not usually known to be connoisseurs of art – have shouted their approval to LeBlond as he worked on the project.
Last week a bylaw officer came by. Someone had complained about how, at the time, there was a big pile of rims in the yard, and worried it was a rubbish pile.
But the officer was fine with the dome. LeBlond figures he has precedent on his side: he’s built one before.
LeBlond built the structure by applying simple geometry. He planted a centre point, then measured from it using radial rods, to ensure each rim was properly spaced.
Near the dome are several smaller, more humble geometric shapes, also built from rims. There’s a mini-sphere, a cube and a pyramid.
“They’re etudes,” said LeBlond.
LeBlond hasn’t counted how many rims make up the big dome. He reckons the easiest way to do this, without losing track, is to stick a bit of flagging tape in each rim, then collect them all and count them.
He hasn’t named the dome yet. He’s considering “megadome.”
Or maybe he’ll let the public choose.
“Count the number of wheels and give it a name,” said LeBlond.
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