(Video link here.) Buckminster Fuller is on our list of people we would have loved to have met and talked to. The one-of-a-kind American architect, engineer, systems theorist, designer, inventor, and futurist was most famous for his invention of the geodesic dome. We love his Dymaxion house, above, designed in 1946. Dymaxion was a Fuller design principle: designs and inventions that yield the greatest possible efficiency in terms of available technology, in other words “more with less“. (You can walk through the Dymaxion at the Henry Ford Museum just outside Detroit in Dearborn. Yet another reason to visit Detroit.)
What we love most about Fuller is that out of a painful period of ‘failure’ in his life, he found his mission and life work that would prove to have profound influences on the world long after his death.Dig this snippet from DesignMuseum.org
After leaving the navy in 1922, Fuller co-founded the Stockade Building Company to produce lightweight building materials. The knowledge he acquired there was to prove invaluable to his later experiments with design and architecture. Disaster struck in 1927 when Fuller lost his job at Stockade. At the age of 32 he found himself on the shore of Lake Michigan wondering whether to end his life there. Fuller took a decision to devote his life to others by embarking on “an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity”….
…From then on, ideas and inventions seemed to flow from him in a continuous stream.
Indeed, Fuller had quite a few ‘failures’ in his long career of invention and exploration that included dropping out of Harvard and ill-fated design proposals for a floating city and a flying car. According to the New York Times:
When the students at his second [year teaching at] Black Mountain summer school worried about the risk of another collapsing “Supine Dome,” [the one he tried to build the first summer was a giant flop] Fuller’s riposte was: “You succeed only when you stop failing.”
If you REALLY want insight to Fuller’s truly holistic outside-the-bocx mindset, check out Everything I Know, transcripts of a series of ‘thinking-out-loud’ lectures Fuller gave in 1975 concerning his entire life’s work, from the early 1927 Dymaxion house, car and bathroom, through the Wichita House, geodesic domes, and tensegrity structures, as well as the contents of Synergetics.
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