July 8, 2008
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: Buckminster Fuller Programs
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.23-09.14.08
Speakers: For a full list of events and speakers, go to the AIANY online calendar
Organizers: The Buckminster Fuller Institute; Center for Architecture
Sponsors: Underwriters: Center for Architecture Foundation; Friends of LaGuardia Place; NYC Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program; Lead Sponsor: Spring Scaffolding; Sponsor: Richter+Ratner; Supporters: New York University; Purchase College, State University of New York; Media Sponsor: Metropolis

Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome” is installed across the street from the Center for Architecture through July 12.

Jessica Sheridan

For Buckminster Fuller, architecture was an all-encompassing term. He believed that the architect’s role is to reshape people’s relationship with the Earth and provide design solutions for their most pressing problems. He took a multi-disciplinary approach, and because of this, Fuller is one of the grandfathers of ecology, sustainable design, new media, and global trend charting.

Fuller’s scale was humanity, his scope was planetary, and his architectural aesthetic was driven by function — what he called “doing more with less.” The prefabricated Dymaxion, or “4D,” house was suspended on mast-like structures; omni-medium transport featured duck aerodynamics; grain bins were redesigned for military barracks; postwar housing was based on production and easily deployed aircraft technology; and a world map was developed to show long- and short-term world trends. An understanding of the Earth’s ecology and explorations of “energetic geometry” influenced his seemingly disparate designs and artifacts. As both a pilot and navigator, Fuller sought to combine the newest manmade materials with designs based on mathematical tools of celestial navigation.

Coinciding with the Whitney Museum’s retrospective exhibition, Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe (See On View: About Town), the Center for Architecture is celebrating Fuller’s ideas as well. The Center’s library has been set up as the Dymaxion Study Center through September, and one of the prototypes for Fuller’s last geodesic designs, the “Fly’s Eye Dome,” is installed in LaGuardia Park through July 12. The opening week featured events that gathered former associates and experts from numerous fields. Participants were as varied as Fuller’s exploits — engineers, artists, mathematicians, educators, architects, and students, as well as scholars who are providing the first critical assessments of Fuller’s work now that his personal archive is available for research at Stanford University Special Collections. Also, the first $100,000 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize was conferred on ecological design pioneer, Dr. John Todd. Conversations centered on the impact of genius on society, innovation, environmental stewardship, the mathematics of nanoscale architecture, and approaches to planetary problem solving.

Bonnie DeVarco is an interdisciplinary researcher and writer concentrating on the leading edge of visualization technologies and the history of visual language. She was archivist for the Buckminster Fuller collection from 1989-1995 and is currently completing a book on Fuller titled Invisible Architecture.