Design: The Dymaxion American

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the experimental laboratory of the Phelps Dodge Corp., was designed to slash the cost and increase the ease of installing a bathroom by stamping it out like an automobile body. Fuller really loved this contraption. He mounted it on the back of a truck and rode it out to Long Island. Remembers an old friend: "He went tearing around town, he had some child sitting on the John, and he was throwing toilet paper all over the place." All together, about a dozen bathrooms were made and installed (Fuller's close friend, Author Christopher Morley, bought two), but Phelps Dodge never bore down very hard on getting them into production—perhaps because of nervousness about the plumbers' union. Bucky's diagnosis: "It was only the general inertia of the building world."

None of these enterprises brought much money into the family till. And sometimes even Bucky felt a sense of embarrassment. "My friends would say to me that I was not taking care of my wife. Then I'd go out and get a job, sell flooring tiles—anything. But when I did, things always went badly. So I'd go back to my task." What made things go even more badly in these times of strain was Bucky's conviction that money was not a serious problem and would always come from somewhere. His wife Anne views this with indulgence, still treasures a bit of family doggerel contributed by her brother Roger celebrating their 25th anniversary:

Lady Anne, Lady Anne, keep the coffee hot,

Bucky's found a sixpence, and he's gone to buy a yacht . . .

With the coming of World War II, Bucky Fuller made a major sacrifice. "I drink very well," he explains, "but I found that if I was talking about my inventions and drinking, people just wrote them off as so much nonsense. The war was something serious, and I wanted to be properly accredited. So I stopped drinking and smoking." He has done neither since. He got a regular job—as chief of the Mechanical Engineering Section at the Board of Economic Warfare, later as special assistant to the deputy director of the Foreign Economic Administration. The war also brought Fuller another change: for the first time since he started his life over again in 1927, he was able to originate something that was not "anticipatory" but actually put to use: adapting mass-produced grain storage silos for military living units. Hundreds of these "Dymaxion Deployment Units" saw service in the Pacific and the Persian Gulf before restrictions tightened on steel and the project ground to a halt.

Shape of Nature. "Failure-prone" Fuller had another disappointment in store for him; just as a new version of his Dymaxion House seemed about to go into production in a three-way deal between venture capital, big labor and the aircraft industry, the war's end and a changed economic picture killed the project. But then suddenly, it seemed, he produced the jackpot invention: shelter that was transportable, versatile and cheap—the dome.

But it was not really sudden, nor was it an invention. It was a slow discovery. And it had begun where Bucky Fuller likes to begin: with a probe into the pattern of the universe. To make that probe, Fuller was struggling to develop a new tool—a geometry of energy. In this search of such a geometry, Fuller was using spheres as idealized models

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