Buckminster Fuller, Sustainability

Buckminster Fuller’s World of Sustainable Design


Buckminster Fuller, architect, engineer, geometrician, philosopher, futurist, inventor of the famous geodesic dome, put forth an original form of living sustainability for humanity. He posited that systems thinking helps us understand our connectedness and dependence on our local biome. Watch the 1974 film “The World of R. Buckminster Fuller.”

The World of Buckminster Fuller (1974)

Buckminster Fuller: World Man

By Jared Green, Excerpt Published in The Dirt

Buckminster Fuller was way ahead of his time. While he is famous for his geodesic dome, which took form in Disney’s “Spaceship Earth” Epcot Center and other buildings, as well as his innovative maps, Fuller’s deeper impact may be on our thinking. He was one of the first modern Western thinkers to connect architecture to ecology and the environment. In a fascinating new book edited by Daniel Lopez-Perez called R. Buckminster Fuller: World Man, Alejandro Zaerao-Polo writes that he was one of the first to describe “the modern world as an ecosystem to be reconciled with nature.” Back in the mid-60s, way before the sustainable design movement took root, he was talking about “energy, fossil fuels, food, and pollution.” He was one of the first systems-thinkers, serving as one of the intellectual godfathers of today’s integrated approach to sustainable design.

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Buckminster Fuller, Sustainability
Southern Illinois University will restore the world’s first geodesic dome home, built by Buckminster Fuller in Carbondale. Originally assembled in just seven hours from 60 wooden triangle panels, the dome was occupied by Fuller and his wife, Lady Anne, in the 1960s during his residency at SIU. Photo via FullerDomeHome.org

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  — R. Buckminster Fuller

“Only the free-wheeling artist-explorer, non-academic, scientist-philosopher, mechanic, economist-poet who has never waited for patron-starting and accrediting of his co-ordinate capabilities holds the prime initiative today.”  — R. Buckminster Fuller, The Buckminster Fuller Reader

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Wichita House, Buckminster Fuller
“The Wichita House” based on Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House (1929) attempted to re-think construction aimed toward industrial production. The term Dymaxion combined the words dynamic, maximum and tension, designed for spatial and resource efficiency and inexpensive fabrication. The 100 sqm hexagonal prototype was meant to be earthquake and storm resistant, suspended from the ground by a central pole, with wind turbines on the roof and cisterns to collect and recycle water. The Wichita Prototype fell short of the original idea.

The World of Buckminster Fuller by Oscar-winning filmmaker Robert Snyder, like his other documentaries on “the greats” (Michelangelo, Henry Miller, Willem de Kooning, Pablo Casals, among others), transports the viewer into Fuller’s mind and soul. Told entirely in his own words, the film is an intimate, personal and inspiring message from Fuller to our fragile world.

“Specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the ‘expert’ is fooled into accepting a slavery by making him feel that he in turn is a socially and culturally preferred—ergo, highly secure—lifelong position.”  — R. Buckminster Fuller

H-T UbuWeb Film & Video

Updated 3 January 2024

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