Friday, July 3, 2009

R. Buckminster Fuller

image from the Encyclopedia Britannica

This week I took a bit of a trip back into my past. When I was in my twenties, Bucky Fuller was my guru and this week I visited a lovely retrospective exhibit about his wide range of work at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. Sadly, the exhibit closes Sunday, so I can't encourage everyone to go.

If you've ever seen a geodesic dome, then you know of Bucky Fuller's work. Those huge buildings with the roofs suspended from poles and cables? derived from his work. Ever heard the term "Spaceship Earth"? Fuller again.

R. Buckminster Fuller lived before his time. Long ago he talked about affordable housing, sustainability, working together, feeding everyone, weaning ourselves from fossil fuels and nuclear power, working together so we can all live and prosper on this planet. Sound familiar? He was talking about these things in the 1930s and into the 80s.
A true renaissance man, he designed cars, houses, wrote poetry and prose, illustrated, drew, sketched, painted and did amazing things with three-dimensional geometrics (and much more).

I discovered him while in high school, through his dymaxion globe. A cardboard fold up globe that could be laid flat and showed the continents together without the distortion of a traditional map. My dad gave me the globe and I kept it for many years.

Later, in college, I experimented with geodesics, tensegrity, synergetics and was fascinated by his suspended modular houses and the dymaxion car. The latter were from the 1920s and 30s--way before their time. I could barely comprehend some of it in the 70s--in the 20s it must have seemed outrageous and impossible, the stuff of science fiction!

In the 70s many of his ideas and principles were picked up by popular culture, especially us hippies, and saw the publication of the Dome Book (which I probably hadn't seen since the 70s), the Whole Earth Catalog, and Shelter. In the late 70s my hubby and I heard him speak at a local theater--it was so energizing--he was so enthusiastic and full of ideas.

While many of his ideas never saw fruition, like the really cool "needle" sculling pontoon craft, and others were relegated to "hippie stuff " (dome homes), if you look around today you'll see a lot of geodesic domes around, suspended roofs, and triangulated structures. Perhaps it's finally time for the rest of his ideas about sustainability and living together to see fruition.
You'll have to enlarge the quotes to read them, but I think it's worth it. Some links:
I don't know how to embed videos, but there are several of him, here's a link to get you started:
From ``How Little I Know''
by R. Buckminster Fuller

It is understood
That if you know that I know
How to say it "correctly''
(The exact meaning of which
I have not yet learned)
Then I am entitled to say it
All incorrectly
Which once in a rare while
Will make you laugh.
And I love you so much
Whenever you laugh.
But I haven't learned yet
What love may be
But I love to love
And love being loved
And that is a whole lot
Of unlearnedness.

I haven't learned yet
What laughter is
But a mother told me
How surprised was she
When an undergraduate first
Belly laughed in her
Alma mater


Jenny said...

What an amazing man. I wonder if he ever met James Lovelock or whether they influenced each other. He was always a name in the background of my life but your comments have made me want to see more about him.I wonder if the exhibition is going on anywhere else after Chicago. They often travel around. I'll check that out too.

Anonymous said...

He is VERY amazing. I didn't realize so many ideas came from him. What fun to pursue this so many years later.

Anonymous said...

He sounds like my sort of bloke. like Jenny i knew the name in the background but didnt know all that he did. very interesting - thanks!