Saturday, September 12, 2009

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller (B. July 12, 1895 – D. July 1, 1983)

"From now on there are going to be new individuals who do not just assume that a client knows what he wants, or a society know what it wants to do. These individuals are going to examine environmental controls, human needs, world resources and industry's capabilities before they design anything."

Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller was a man of BIG ideas and one of the first to identify the environment and global social harmony as concerns of design. The first 25 years of his professional career were marked by numerous commercial failures. But as Bucky pointedly pointed out "you succeed only when you stop failing," which in finally did in the early 1950s with his wildly successful geodesic dome design.

The geodesic dome is a spherical or semi-spherical structure made out of a lattice work of connected triangles. The structure distributes the weight evenly and extremely strong. In his 1954 patent Bucky wrote "a good index to the performance of any building frame is the structural weight required to shelter a square foot of floor from the weather. In a conventional wall and roof design the figure is often 2500 kg per square meter. I have discovered how to do the job at around 4 kg per square meter.."

One of Bucky's maxims was an inversion of the Bauhaus epigram "less is more" into "more for less." The Geodesic dome is the prime example of this idea because of its minimum structure for maximum volume.

Originally Bucky came up with the design as paper and cardboard models that illustrated as system of thought he developed.

He visualized all useful experiences and un-usefully experience as being divided. There was a clear sphere into which all of the mundane and useless thoughts were stored. Once this was filled up all of the useful thoughts had to exist on the surface of the sphere. He was interested in exploring the "insideness and the outsideness" of the useful and un-useful thoughts. Bucky thought that it took three experiences to fix their relationship. But to establish a sphere he needed to connect these triangles in 3D space. Thus the geodesic dome was born.

Bucky would go onto design many projects of massive scale but his geodesic dome was his only design to find widespread acceptance in the commercial world.


Design Science - One of the many terms Fuller invented, Design Science sought to bring together technology, science and art in such a way as to work toward "a world that works for 100% of humanity in the shortest amount of time without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

Dymaxion Car - A three wheeled car, steered by its rear wheel. The car could carry 11 passengers and got good gas mileage (30MPG). The car was reported to handle poorly at high speeds and was involved in a fatal accident. The car never made it into production.

Dymaxion House - An energy efficient and inexpensive home designed to be mass produced.

Dymaxion Map - is a projection of the world map onto the surface of polyhedron. This map has less distortion of relative size of areas. Also the map has no rightway up. it's isolemtric!

Tensegrity - utilizes tension as opposed to compression. Invention of lightweight tensegrity construction allowed for structures of limitless size.

Ephemeralization - doing more for less can lead to an implosion of functions, one into another, until only a gossamer thin but steely strong multifunctional envelope takes the place of the separate cultures of architecture, building and aesthetic (Manhattan dome).

Tetrahedronal City (Triton City)- a floating city designed for San Francisco bay. Earthquake proof. 2,500 meters tall, contained 5,000 apartments. Broke the components of a city into different floating units.

Geoscope - large scale map of the world positioned with the same axis as viewer and which visualized and inventoried all available planetary resources and their historical movements.

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