There have been many influential figures throughout history. With each of them, there has a been tendency to be ahead of the curve. They help bring pictures to light many of us couldn’t see without their help – they help transform our world. Buckminster Fuller is one of these figures, and his message still seems “ahead of the curve” even today, some 30 years after his death.
The Life and Ideas of Buckminster Fuller
Born July 12, 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts, “Bucky”, as he was commonly referred to, was a “designer, architect, poet, educator, engineer, philosopher, environmentalist, and, above all, humanitarian.” He spent his time finding the most effective and innovative ways to combat the two biggest threats to humanity: hunger and homelessness.
Among Fuller’s notable achievements are the Dymaxion car, which could hold 12 passengers, go 120 mph, and used half as much gas as the standard car at the time. He also developed the Dymaxion house, a pre-fabricated, easily deliverable, and fireproof alternative to traditional home building. Unfortunately, neither project could develop enough investment.
Both had the name “dymaxion”, referring to the idea of dynamic and maximum efficiency. In hopes to combating the two beats of the world, the rampant problems of getting food to those in hunger and putting roofs over their heads, Buckminster sought to make the most out of the least amount of materials.
At the same time, Bucky was well-known for another design: the geodesic dome. This spacey, futuristic looking shell was essentially a number of triangles on the surface of a dome. From this design, Buckminster found structural integrity, distributing weight (and therefore strength) evenly across the surface. Following the same principle above, he used as little material as possible, making transportation, set up, and repair both easy and efficient.
To add to the already interesting influence of ideas, his geodesic design also translated into nanotechnology and the way we understand molecular structures.
Finding Environmental Principle in Fuller
From his designs, I’d like to take away two things: simplicity can be a key to versatility, and the concept of dymaxion is a great principle for approaching construction with the environment in mind. Fuller challenged the traditional ideas behind both home and car – they did not need to be inefficient, superfluous titans. Instead, they could meet simple, straightforward, and efficient standards.
By following this principle, we can do an exercise in counter factualism. Imagine the world where Fuller’s ideas took root. The efficiency of cars would have long curbed pollution, the efficiency behind home building would have long preserved our resources, and this mantra – engrained in society – would have long developed ecologically responsible and prudent people.
Because of the potential power of these ideas, Buckminster Fuller more than deserves the title of visionary.
Special thanks to PBS for providing a fantastic source on the life, lessons, and philosophy of Buckminster Fuller.
Dr. Berkas Comment
There are few human beings that have left their threads woven through so many aspects of present day. Richard Buckminster Fuller is one of these threads that stands out in the interconnected web that weaves together science, architecture, philosophy, art and medicine. I first learned about Bucky Fuller in my first year of Organic Chemistry and his simplistic, yet solid ideas still stand out in my mind.
While many may know R. Buckminster Fuller in regards to the geodesic dome, his accolades reach far beyond. Fuller was also passionate about sustainability and believed that society would come to rely on renewable sources or energy. He was also optimistic that the next generation would be raised to understand this and would foster the idea, “we can do more, with less.”
Many years after his death, this is exactly where we are heading. From sustainability as it relates to energy efficiency, to micronizing the geodesic dome into nano-technology (buckyballs or fullerenes), Buckminster Fuller will always be remembered; first and foremost by this author as a humanitarian.
“We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.” R. Buckminster Fuller