Day 95/365 of Steel – Richard Buckminster Fuller

A deep bow for a humanist and brillant man.

R. Buckminster Fuller holds up a Tensegrity sphere in 1979.
Fig 1: R. Buckminster Fuller holds up a Tensegrity sphere in 1979.
Posted by: Dwell

Richard Buckminster Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, philosopher, and futurist. Fuller developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Fuller was awarded 28 United States patents and many honorary doctorates. He also received numerous other awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him on February 23, 1983, by President Ronald Reagan.

Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome at EXPO '67
Fig 2: Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome at EXPO ’67

After WWII and with the support of a group of professors and students, he began reinventing a project that would make him famous: the geodesic dome. Although the geodesic dome had been created, built and awarded a German patent in 1925 by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld, Fuller was awarded United States patents. The construction is based on extending some basic principles to build simple “tensegrity” structures (tetrahedron, octahedron, and the closest packing of spheres), making them lightweight and stable. The geodesic dome was a result of Fuller’s exploration of nature’s constructing principles to find design solutions.

A sunset view of Montreal's Biosphere 
Fig 3: A sunset view of Montreal’s Biosphere 
© Guilhermeduartegarcia / WikiCommons

One of his most remarkable projects was the geodesic dome of The Biosphere, a museum dedicated to the environment in Montreal. It is housed in the former United States pavilion constructed for Expo 67 located within the grounds of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen’s Island.

The Biosphere, Montreal
Fig 4: The Biosphere, Montreal
Author: Thomas Ledl

There is so much more to be said about this wonderful man and his inventions (Dymaxion House, Dymaxion Car, the octet truss…) but I refer to the many books that have been published on his work.

Dymaxion House
Fig 5: Dymaxion House
image: Library of Congress/Wikipedia

Fuller died on July 1, 1983, 11 days before his 88th birthday. During the period leading up to his death, his wife had been lying comatose in a Los Angeles hospital, dying of cancer. It was while visiting her there that he exclaimed, at a certain point: “She is squeezing my hand!” He then stood up, suffered a heart attack, and died an hour later, at age 87. His wife of 66 years died 36 hours later.

Dymaxion Car
Fig 6: Dymaxion Car
Source: Dynamaxion 1933

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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