a narrow dead-end
road in the East End of Pittsburgh, beyond several traditional square
houses, the round structure juts from the ground like a vessel from
Visitors have been known to exclaim, “Wow!” or slam on their
brakes as they gape at the original “Yaca-Dome,” a white steel-frame
dome named for the late landscape designer Joseph Yacoboni, who
built 26 of these round homes across the country.
“It looked like a glowing spaceship,” says Alice Groesbeck, of
Groesbeck and other recent visitors have slept inside the curved
contours by renting the dome through Airbnb [ airbnb.com], the
popular home- and apartment-sharing site.
Peering out the dozen-plus windows that line the circumference
of the dome illuminates for guests the vision of Yacoboni, who was
known to say, “;ere are no squares in nature” and wanted to bring
the feeling of the outdoors indoors.
Yacoboni built his original dome
in 1969 in Pittsburgh, then moved to
Lake Placid, Fla., to build a few more,
including a double dome with a swimming pool in the middle. ;e home
in the Lincoln-Lemington section of
Pittsburgh changed hands several times
before sitting vacant for years, its pipes
bursting, the roof leaking — a sorry
state for the once-gleaming futuristic
When real estate developer Azhar
“Lee” Leeton;;rst visited the house in
2010, the brush around it was so overgrown he could barely see it.
But once Leeton made his way
to the dome on Olivant Place and
saw the extraordinary structure, he
says he couldn’t resist buying it. He
restored it, plastered walls, replaced
plumbing, added a new boiler with
hot-water heater, installed new ;ooring and whacked down years
of overgrowth. Last spring, he began renting out the house — he
nicknamed it “;e Igloo” — a;er furnishing it simply. Rates for the
short-term rentals vary by date and availability.
Guests ranging from actors in “;e Lion King” touring musical
to musicians to parents of students attending nearby colleges have
slept inside the three-bedroom house.;As visitors step inside, they
o;en say, “It’s bigger than it looks.”
“It’s [about] 1, 250 square feet,” Lisa Podolinski, the project
manager, tells them. ;en she catches herself. “Actually there are no
It’s not easy to ;nd the dome through a maze of smaller streets
o; Washington Boulevard just southeast of the Pittsburgh Zoo &
In fact, Podolinski spent months sending messages to Google
Maps before the global mapping service added the address. At one
point, she sent the site its own aerial image of the dome with the
message, “You will see a large round structure. ;at is where the address is.” Even though she advises her guests on directions, she o;en
;elds calls from lost visitors.
Once guests ;nd the dome, they can relax on a brown sectional
in the living room with a high ceiling in the center and peer out
round windows that overlook a secluded wooded area. ;e house
can sleep six people and has a small kitchen with a retro-looking
Tom Goss, a rock musician from Washington, D.C., and his
band mates rented it during December. ;ough he had seen geodesic domes before, Goss says he had never seen a round one held
up by steel beams. ;e creative space helped him to unwind a;er
demanding days in the recording studio.
“I loved the dome,” the musician says. “It puts your mind in a
di;erent space. A;er a super-intense day, it is very peaceful.”
He initially worried about driving down the narrow road during
a particularly rough Pittsburgh winter last year. But he said Leeton
shoveled the driveway and made passage easy. “We enjoyed the
beauty of winter in Pittsburgh.”
;Groesbeck, a senior editor for servingcinema.com, says she
liked the sensation of looking at the curved white walls during a re-
union with a few friends from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
“Because it was circular, we wanted to sit in a circle and catch up.
It is the kind of place that brings people together.”
;She also liked looking out at the view of the woods during their
stay. “It felt like we were in a tree fort,” she says.
Celeste Yacoboni, the daughter of the late dome maker, is
thrilled that the original structure has been restored and can be
rented so more people can enjoy her father’s invention. He died