Design: The Dymaxion American

  • Share
  • Read Later


(See Cover) He has been called "the first poet of technology," "the greatest living genius of industrial-technical realization in building," "an anticipator of the world to come—which is different from being a prophet," "a seminal thinker," and "an inspired child." But all these encomiums are fairly recent. For most of his life, R. Buckminster Fuller was known simply as a crackpot.

He is also something more than the mere sum of his praise and criticism. He is a throwback to the classic American individualist, a mold which produced Thomas Edison and Thoreau—men with the fresh eye that cannot be done. What Fuller sees excites him with the vision of man's potentialities, and he has made it his mission to help man to realize them. Says he: "Man knows so much and does so little." Last week this crackpot stepped off the plane in London, spouting words the minute his feet touched ground, and headed for a dinner in his honor at the Royal Institute of British Architects. On Sunday he went to Bristol for two days of touring and talking. His next stop: Ghana's University of Science and Technology, which has been waiting a year for his arrival this week to conduct a four-week research and development project.

Today Richard Buckminster Fuller, 68, of Carbondale, Ill. — whose college career never got beyond his freshman midyears—is famous for houses that fly and bathrooms without water, for cars and maps and ways of living bearing the mysterious word "Dymaxion," for things called "octet trusses," "synergetics" and "tensegrity." But he is best known of all for his massive mid-century breakthrough known as the "geodesic dome."

Plastic, Cardboard & Bamboo. In ten years the famed domes of Bucky Fuller have covered more square feet of the earth than any other single kind of shelter. U.S. Marines have lived and worked in them from Antarctica to Okinawa. Beneath them, radar antennas turn tirelessly along the 4,500 miles of the DEW line, which guards the North American continent against surprise attack. For eight years, the U.S. has been using Fuller domes to house its exhibits at global trade fairs; they have represented America in Warsaw, Casablanca, Istanbul, Kabul, Tunis, Lima, New Delhi, Accra, Bangkok, Tokyo, Osaka. The Russians were so impressed by the 200-ft.-diameter dome at the 1959 U.S. exhibit in Moscow that they bought it. "Mr. J. Buckingham Fuller must come to Russia and teach our engineers," garbled Premier Khrushchev.

They are being made of almost anything and everything—polyester fiber glass, alloy aluminum, weatherproofed cardboard, plastic, bamboo. More than 50 companies have taken out licenses to make them in the U.S. alone. The small domes are light enough to be lifted by helicopter, and they practically build themselves. Non-English-speaking Eskimos can put them together in a matter of hours out of color-coded components. The day his company began erecting a geodesic auditorium in Hawaii, Henry J. Kaiser hopped a plane from San Francisco to see the work in progress, but it was finished by the time he got there, and seated an audience of 1,832 at a concert that same night.

The Weatherproof City. Structurally unlimited as to size, cheap to make, requiring no obstructing columns for

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8
  10. 9
  11. 10
  12. 11