The Captaincy of the ”Dymaxegrity” – “Bucky” Fuller
The geodesic sphere, originally invented by engineers of Carl Zeiss in 1928, and reinvented and popularized 20 years later by R. Buckminster Fuller, with all the connotations and associations that it carries of a “model of the Earth”, is what better materialize the motivation to improve all living things’ welfare.
As Peter Anker describes in the magnificent “Buckminster Fuller as the Captain of Spaceship Earth”, saving the Earth from ecological disaster was what motivated Fuller to develop his approaches, along with specific interests in scientific and technocratic social management (Anker, 2007). Believed to be a happiness increaser by Frank Lloyd Right (Anker, 2007), Fuller’s ‘Dymaxion’ house (for ‘dynamic,’ ‘maximum,’ and ‘ion’) could be mass produced and assembled in twenty-four hours, thanks to efficient use of materials and construction practices. Research and design alone became the means of humanity salvation when Fuller invented a series of technologies that sought to streamline them according to nature’s dynamics (Anker, 2007).
The ‘Dymaxion’ inventions were examples of technological solutions to ecological problems, mainly by dealing with the general use of energy. Through his own research called “geometry of energy”, Fuller – along with his students from Chicago Institute of Design – constructed his first dome following the first principle of ecological synergy: the energetic strength of the entire construction is greater than the sum of its parts (B.F. Institute, Online). The virtues of Fuller’s dome technology were several: lightweight, structurally strong, easy to build, and amenable to the needs of different clients.
Tensegrity, term invented by Fuller (blend of “tensional integrity”), is defined by Donald Ingber as “an architectural system in which structures stabilize themselves by balancing the counteracting forces of compression and tension” (Ingber, 1998). As a result, it carries a given load with a minimum amount of building materials (Ingber, 1998), resulting in the management of the use of general energy during the material production and structure assembling.
Fuller portrays – in his book named “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” – Earth as a spaceship. Flying through space, the mechanical vehicle requires maintenance and has a limited quantity of unsupplied resources, where the sun is Earth’s exclusive energy supplier. “We are all astronauts” (Fuller, 1968). Fuller suggests that planners, architects, and engineers should take the initiative. And it’s actually happening. The contemporary idea of “smart construction” and “clean energy harvest” can be related to every single aspect of Fuller’s lifework, more specifically based upon his idea of “doing more with less”. Dedicated to the environment, the Biosphere Museum in Montreal (Above) is one example of such concept that still remains as a symbolic piece of efficient architecture.
Buckminster Fuller is and will always be – either consciously or unconsciously – an inspiration for designers and architects throughout the world that actively have been contributing with Bucky’s debate. The society has never spoken so much about building for the environment as it is speaking nowadays. He can be considered as an extremely comprehensive artist which always had his thoughts ahead of its time.
The Buckminster Fuller Institute. [Website – Online]. Available at: https://bfi.org/
Anker, P. (2007). Buckminster Fuller as Captain of Spaceship Earth. University of Oslo, Department of History. Spring, Minerva (2007) 45:417–434
Fuller, R. B. (1969). Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Book.
Ingber, D. E. (1998). The Architecture of Life. Scientific American, 278(1), 48-57.