Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buckminster Fuller

R. Buckminster Fuller dabbled in philosophy, design, architecture, art, engineering, entrepreneurship, writing, mathematics, teaching and inventing.

As a designer who was motivated by the idea that the consumer should get "more for less," R. Buckminster Fuller worked on plans to modernize houses, boats, cars and geodesic designs. Although the exact plans different from item to item, Fuller designed each with the intent of being mass-produced utilizing the most simplistic and sustainable means available. This designer's main focus was in the fields of building and transportation. He became most prominent worldwide in the 1950's with the creation of his large-scale, multifunctional geodesic domes. However, it wasn't until after Fuller's death that the significance of his discoveries, proposals and inventions were recognized as proof that the world's resources are not endless and should be taken with cautious economy and thought.

Fuller was born in 1895 to a wealthy New England family. To their horror, Fuller failed to graduate from Harvard University. As a result, the soon-to-be designer entered the US Navy, a decision that would greatly affect his future life and work through expanding his scientific understanding. After leaving the navy in 1922 and gaining a new appreciation for discovery due to his sea travel, Fuller co-founded the Stockade Building Company which created lightweight building materials.

After the loss of his job in 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide. Instead of ending his life, Fuller made the decision to devote the remainder of his life to "an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity." In order to make this plan a reality this individual narrowed his focus to construction and made his first patent application for the 4D tower. This building was proposed as a lightweight, prefabricated, multi-story, apartment tower that could be brought anywhere by airship. After the delivery occurred the towers would be capable of generating their own light and heat with an independent sewage and waste disposal system. Fuller poured his entire being into making this idea a reality. His ideas were cohesive in that they suggested the most modern methods of transport.

In 1929 Fuller began his invention of the Dymaxion House. This shelter was displayed at the Marshall Field department store and was derived from lightweight steel, duraluminium and plastic which was suspended from a centralized mast from where the rooms were radiated in a hexagonal plane. This idea was conceived as a temporary, transportable space that could be rented, as opposed to a permanent, private residence.

In 1933 Fuller made a proposal for a three-wheeled Dymaxion Car which entailed rear steering and front-wheel drive powered by a Ford engine. The car's aerodynamic shape was closely connected to high-performance yachts. Unfortunately the first three prototypes were rammed and overturned killing a driver directly outside of the Chicago World's Fair. Regardless of this major setback, Fuller powered through and continued to work on his experiments and began to gain an international reputation for his work in lightweight and quickly constructed housing.

In 1940 Fuller was asked to create an emergency shelter for the British War relief Organization. In this effort, Fuller collaborated with the Butler Company of Kansas City, a company which manufactured grain silos of curved galvanized steel in order to build a self-supporting infrastructure in a circular shape to supply the best relationship between circumference and interior space. Although the British Government did not take advantage of this invention the US utilized these units as emergency accommodation for the air force during World War II. The war effort also prompted Fuller to create the Dymaxion World Map because he believed that the relations between the superpowers varied during war and thus there was a need to develop a global map so that the entire world could be viewed at one time.

Once the war ended Fuller returned to his passion of creating standardized, lightweight and affordable housing. This came in the form of the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, otherwise known as the Wichita House. This shelter was invented in collaboration with the Beech Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas. The original prototype featured a house for a full-size family and weighed four tons. Although the company received thousands of orders for this home design, Fuller wanted to wait to sell until he was fully content with his invention. Needless to say this upset many investors who in turn withdrew their support. Ultimately a Wichita man bought the prototype for the design and lived in the house with his six kids until his death.

Fuller's main focus was on geodesic domes which were designed to cover the maximum space possible without needing to use internal supports. The idea behind this creation was the bigger the dome was, the lighter and stronger it would become. By 1954 Fuller had created two domes at the Milan Triennale exhibition made from six pieces of corrugated cardboard. By 1957, Fuller had redefined the design so that a geodesic dome was assembled in twenty-two hours in Honolulu. Since this time, hundreds of thousands geodesic designs have been created worldwide, often in extreme conditions such as to house homeless families in Africa.

By the time of his death, the contributions of Buckminster Fuller included 25 US patents, 28 written books, traveling the world 57 times and the recipient of 47 doctrines and a 1969 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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