Art, process and design blog of an aspiring industrial designer.

“Dare to be naïve.”

Buckminster Fuller is a world icon in architecture and industrial design. He is easily one of the most influential industrial designers that ever lived.

Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an American systems theorist, architect, engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist. Fuller published more than 30 books, inventing and popularizing terms such as “Spaceship Earth”, ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, the best known of which is the geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their resemblance to geodesic spheres.”

 (Buckminster Fuller, Laminar Geodesic Dome, United States Patent Office no. 3,203,144, from the portfolio Invention. here.)

After being expelled from Harvard twice (once apparently for socializing and once for missing his midterm exams), Buckminster Fuller joined the navy. After serving for a term, he developed a building prefabrication technique that he soon began to manufacture. Unfortunately, his new company quickly failed, with not enough clients and a poor market. He was completely bankrupt and houseless, on the brink of suicide, when he developed his life philosophy and his new direction in life.

He began focusing his efforts on his idea of global sustainability. He believed that each individual lived in a global control system, and as such, he developed projects and idea that embodied this perspective. Bucky soon became a famous environmental activist and developed the principle of ““ephemeralization” ( meaning, in his words, “doing more with less”).

(Buckminster Fuller and ‘4D House’)

Material and resource conservation and optimization is a large focus of much of his work. He began to develop work in the fields of architecture, industrial design and engineering, and eventually went on to work for large organizations, such as the Phelps Dodge Corporation, the British Military, the U.S. Military (during World War II) and as the science advisor for Life and Fortune magazine. Throughout this time he also did his own consulting work and also began teaching at Black Mountain College, where he developed the idea of the architectural geodesic dome.

He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has recieved many honorary degrees in architecture, engineering and many other fields. He has also written multiple successful books discussing his life’s philosophies such as, ‘Nine Chains to the Moon’, ‘I Seem to Be A Verb’, ‘Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth‘.

‘Fuller also claimed that the natural analytic geometry of the universe was based on arrays of tetrahedra. He developed this in several ways, from the close-packing of spheres and the number of compressive or tensile members required to stabilize an object in space. One confirming result was that the strongest possible homogeneous truss is cyclically tetrahedral.

In his 1970 book I Seem To Be a Verb, he wrote: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.” ‘  here.



(Fuller’s Dymaxion Car)

“Selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable…. War is obsolete.”  here.

Although his designs were really inventive and extrodinary, since they were all very against-convention, many of his designs were not very marketable. Even after he became famous and respected, his Dymaxion Car failed to sell. When researching Bucky, I kept asking myself, other than his five or six famous pieces (which, do not misunderstand me, are truly significant), why is his name SO famous?


(Buckminster Fuller, US Pavillion für die Weltausstellung in Montreal, 1967 (Built for the Canadian Expo’67) )

My conclusion is, really, that he changed the way we look at design. He was thinking about sustainability in the 1930’s! He considered life-cycle analysis before it was even a thing. He MADE it a thing. His philosophies and the risks he took in his designs, I think, were more influencial than the designs themselves. It created something weird and unusual, so that it maybe may someday become not unusual. Maybe not even feared by 1950’s housewives (as, for example, the Dymaxion prefabricated houses, were).

“A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist.”

The fact the Fuller was renowned more for the ideas behind his designs proves, literally, that the intention or concept or ‘theme’ of a project really, really does matter. As insanely obvious as that statement is, I think its personified in Bucky’s traditionally ‘unsuccessful’ projects. People talk about a ‘concept’ giving a project clarity and consistency and an understanding to the masses.  More than that, though, I think that if you have this fascinating, complex, helpful, visionary-istic (I want to say futuristic, but I think I am looking for a word that is more psychic that futuristic..) idea, even if it is barely seen in the design, that it is totally preferred to a not-thought-out idea rammed in your face.

 (Building Construction – Dymaxion Deployment Unit; Prefabricated House Design, United States Patent Office)

“Faith is much better than belief. Belief is when someone else does the thinking.”

(Resources for my research! here, here, here, here)

(Click on all images to go to their original webpages.)

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Comments on: "Artist/Designer Round Up: Buckminster Fuller" (1)

  1. […] Artist/Designer Round Up: Buckminster Fuller (kaleidoscopebrain.wordpress.com) 37.398730 -122.071465 Rate this:Share this:EmailDiggTumblrRedditFacebookLinkedInTwitterStumbleUponPrintPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Digital strategy, DIY and design, Ethnography and culture, Linguistics and psychological anthropology, Visualization and reporting and tagged Architect, Business, Construction and Maintenance, Contemporary, Design, Furniture, Geodesic dome, Home and Garden, Multi-Discipline by timbatchelder. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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