For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Only ten years ago the ‘more with less’ technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option of becoming enduringly successful.
– Buckminster Fuller 1980
I find it interesting that the Whole Earth Catalog begins with a person and not an idea or an object. The catalog introduces us to him by saying ” The insights of Buckminster Fuller are what initiated this catalog”. “Bucky” a childhood nickname that endured throughout his life exemplifies our greatest and most renewable resource; the Human imagination. Buckminster Fuller forged a path few would have been able to envision and fewer could have endured. If I was to try to surmise Buckminster Fuller in a sentence, id say he was a technological utopian with unwavering faith in humanity. Buckminster had a vision of a technological utopia that would harness rather than reject modern technological advancements for the good of Humankind. Buckminster Fullers ideas, whether theoretical or practically employed would and will inspire generations of future thinkers.
R. Buckminster Fuller was a 20th century visionary and inventor born in Milton, Massachusetts on July 12, 1895. Devoting his life to making the world benefit all of humanity. Buckminster Fuller epitomizes the model of a Renaissance man/woman. He was not a specialist of one discipline but rather thrived by integrating multiple disciplines. He refered to himself as a Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Scientist. As stated in Howard Brown, Robert Cook, and Medard Gabel. Environmental Design Science Primer. “Design science requires that the traditional separation of the sciences and humanities be abandoned in order to develop a more creative approach to design and planning.” Fullers aim in employing this methodology to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty.
The Geodesic Dome is probably the best example of Fullers doing more with less methodology. Fullers domes embodied a perfect synthesis of form is function. Lightweight, cost-effective and easy to assemble, geodesic domes enclose more space without intrusive supporting columns than any other structure, efficiently distribute stress, and can withstand extremely harsh conditions. Based on Fuller’s “synergetic geometry,” his lifelong exploration of nature’s principles of design, the geodesic dome was the result of his revolutionary discoveries about balancing compression and tension forces in building. (Fuller n.d.)
Fuller, unlike most all other utopians, went beyond theorizing and made a conscious effort toward constructing his vision. Contrary to John Ruskin, and William Morris Arts and Crafts movement whom preached a regression to simpler times, Fuller looked toward the future. Fuller states that “the future is now” in his book Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity. Buckminster’s Domes and philosophical ideologies gained popularity in America among the countercultures of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Hippy artist communes like Drop City embraced both his environmental crusade and utilitarian designs but were ironically somewhat hostile to modern technology.
Utopia represents a perfect society. Ever since the developments of the European Enlightenment and England’s industrial revolution, which notably begun in England’s textile industry, writers have been considering the idea as an attainable goal. By the time of Buckminster birth the prevailing belief that resources were finite was gradually giving way to a belief thanks to numerous technological advances, natural resources were infinite. Although Buckminster did not subscribe to this ideology he did believe technology was the panacea of all humanities needs.
Whether he is considered naïve, a success, or failure, is still a subject of debate. It’s difficult to measure Fullers impact on subsequent designers and thinkers. If you look at the record, Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books, and received 47 honorary degrees. He was clearly best known for the geodesic dome, which has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide, but I believe his greatest impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet.