Marcia Bjornerud on Buckminster Fuller Case Study (No. 3)

"I always start with the  Universe" -- RBF

Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) and his ideas continue to be unpacked by experts and the public. A recent exhibition organized by the Whitney and traveling to the Museum of Contemporary Art re-contextualizes Fuller as a "Philospher. Forecaster. Designer. Poet, Inventor Advocate of alternative energy" and not just the inventor of the Geodesic Dome. Marcia Bjornerud, Lawrence University professor of Geology and Environmental Studies and author of Reading the Rocks, remembers building a cardboard dome as child after visiting the 1967 US Pavilion in Montreal. She can also identify how Fuller essentially anticipated ideas in her field of environmental science (e.g. systems thinking, looking for hidden "architectures" in nature, understanding the unsustainability of the fossil fuel economy) by decades. His ideas about optimization and doing the most with the least seem visionary even today and have replicated in the public consciousness like memes. His vision--that we are all astronauts on Spaceship Earth, not the theme park version at Epcot, makes more sense now than it may have when he began talking about it 1951. The World of Buckminster Fuller, a 1974 eighty-minute film by Robert Synder, documents Fuller's infamous oratory style. Fuller spoke for 10 hours at a time and rarely slept as he travelled around the world giving lectures. According to Elizabeth Kolbert in her New Yorker article, "Dymaxion Man", Fuller's architecture classes at Yale lasted from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. Audiences, she reports, were "enraptured and mystified." In today's Twitter speed world, his lectures might best be considered poetry, performance art or sermons. "Bucky" the Harvard dropout who sometimes referred to himself as Guinea Pig B, thought of his life as an experiment and set out to find out what an individual could do "on behalf of all humanity." The ripples are still being felt.

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