THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 29 Scientist Buckminster Fuller

The amazing setting and backstory of The #LongestRide Movie

20th Century Fox invited our writer, Jennifer Donovan, on an expenses-paid set visit to North Carolina for Nicholas Sparks’ new movie, The Longest Ride, in theaters April 10.

Earlier this week, I wrote about my visit to the set of The Longest Ride movie, focusing on the casting and the characters. In this post, I’m going to look at some of the interesting elements of the plot, which made for a great book, but will also look great on screen.

Nicholas Sparks on the Bull-riding Element

One of the great things about this film, but the partnership that Fox had with the PBR to develop this film was like nothing you’ve ever seen. And it was necessary because people who make movies are good at making movies. And every time you see an animal in a movie, that animal is tame or trained, so they go to their spot, and so you know where to put the camera.

You don’t know where that bull is going, so how do you get Scott on the bull? How do you get the angle right? Well, guess who knows How to do that? The PBR, among other things.  So, then Fox can do things that the PBR can’t with the level of quality of the camera. It’s the most realistic stuff. These are real cowboys. They’re from the PBR.

These are the real bulls from the PBR. I mean, you can look up the bull in the PBR. The thing is ranked number three in the world right now. It’s unbelievable.


Art in post-war North Carolina

In my post at 5 Minutes for Books, On Reading Nicholas Sparks for the First Time, I wrote about talking with one of the other bloggers for whom this was her first experience with a Nicholas Sparks novel. One of the things she noted, and that I liked about this novel as well, was the rich backstory and characterization of Ira and Ruth Levinson. The backdrop of art was interesting to me, not only because my daughter is an artist, but because I always love learning about a different culture or hobby or occupation while I’m reading fiction. Between bull riding and art collecting in post-war North Carolina, I learned a lot while reading The Longest Ride.


So, I have this idea for this story, and Ira and Ruth, and I have in my mind that they’re going to collect art. And I’m sitting there thinking, “How am I going to pull this off? I live in North Carolina, right. There’s a nice Jewish couple in North Carolina. If they’re in New York, maybe you could see it happening, right.”
So, I said to myself, “How can I make this seem believable?” So, my first notion was that they were just going to meet an artist who happened to be vacationing in North Carolina, befriend this person, man or woman, go with him to wherever the art scene was, and that’s how they got started.
So, that was my plan. So, I said, “Okay. So, let’s find a North Carolina artist who might have been around in the ’40s, ’50s. So, I Google like literally “North Carolina artists in the 1940s,” or something.
And boom, up pops Black Mountain College. And it turns out that Black Mountain College was this experimental college, ran for about 24 years in the 1930s to, I think, 1956 or 1957.
And it was the center of the modern art movement for American painters. Everyone from Willem de Kooning was there, to Rauschenberg, to Franz Kline, to Pat Passlof.
I mean, De Kooning’s paintings, they go for $350 million. He’s over here teaching at Black Mountain College. Buckminster Fuller was there. Robert DeNiro’s father, who was a very famous artist, he was a graduate of Black Mountain College.
Came in, they did painting and sculpture, whatever they did. And it was there, and it was a couple of hours away.
So, there I’m writing, I’m looking for an artist, and I find out that this key element that I need to make the art collecting believable, that center was like two hours from where I placed them originally.
I was like, “Wow.” So, I called my agent and I said, “You are not going to believe this. You are not going to believe what I just found.” And so, of course, then I learned all I could about Black Mountain College.


My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards. In the 11th post I discuss the fact that Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain.

In the 12th post I feature Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who was featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE and the film showed Kandinsky teaching at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE which was not true according to my research. Evidently he was invited but he had to decline because of his busy schedule but many of his associates at BRAUHAUS did teach there. In the 13th post I look at the writings of the communist Charles Perrow. 

Willem de Kooning was such a major figure in the art world and because of that I have dedicated the 14th15th and 16th posts in this series on him. Paul McCartney got interested in art through his friendship with Willem because Linda’s father had him as a client. Willem was a  part of New York School of Abstract expressionism or Action painting, others included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Clyfford Still, and Richard Pousette-Dart.

In the 17th post I look at the founder Ted Dreier and his strength as a fundraiser that make the dream of Black Mountain College possible. In the 18th post I look at the life of the famous San Francisco poet Robert Duncan who was both a student at Black Mountain College in 1933 and a professor in 1956. In the 19th post I look at the composer Heinrich Jalowetz who starting teaching at Black Mountain College in 1938 and he was one of  Arnold Schoenberg‘s seven ‘Dead Friends’ (the others being Berg, Webern, Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schreker, Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos). In the 20th post I look at the amazing life of Walter Gropius, educator, architect and founder of the Bauhaus.

In the 21st post I look at the life of the playwright Sylvia Ashby, and in the 22nd post I look at the work of the poet Charles Olson who in 1951, Olson became a visiting professor at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, working and studying here beside artists such as John Cage and Robert Creeley.[2] 

In the 23rd post is about the popular artist James Bishop who attended Black Mountain College towards the end of its existence. In the 24th post I look at the Poet-Writer Martha King. In the 25th post I talk about the life of the architect Claude Stoller and his time at Black Mountain College. In the 26th post I look at Ted Drieir. Jr., who was a student at Black Mountain College and the son of the founder. In the 27th post I look at the work of the artist Dorothea Rockburne and in the 28th post the artist Donald Alter. The 29th post is the scientist Buckmister Fuller.



Allegra Fuller Snyder – Black Mountain: The Start of a Critical Path

Published on Oct 12, 2012

Reviewing 4 Black Mountain College Museum International Conference
Allegra Fuller Snyder (Conference Keynote Speaker)
Black Mountain: The Start of a Critical Path

Allegra Fuller Snyder is Buckmister Fuller’s only living child and is the Founder, first President, and now Board member emeritus of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. She is also Professor Emerita of Dance and Dance Ethnology, UCLA; 1992 American Dance Guild Honoree of the Year; former Chair of the Department of Dance; and founding Coordinator of the World Arts and Cultures Program. She has been on the Dance Faculty at Cal Arts as well as Professor of Performance Studies at New York University, and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Surrey, Guildford, England. She began her career as a performer and choreographer and has been concerned with the relation of dance to film since the late 1940s. She has made several prize winning documentary films on dance. She has done dance research around the world, was the recipient of several Fulbright Scholarships. Among many special projects Snyder was a Core Consultant on the PBS series DANCING for WNET/Channel 13. Recently returning to performance, Jennifer Fisher of the LA times said of her in “Spirit Dances 6: Inspired by Isadora,” “She was a haiku and an epic.”

Sponsored by the Green Restaurants of AIR (Asheville Independent Restaurants)

Videography and Post by Michael Folliett
at Image


Great group of pictures:

The Supine Dome
Buckminster Fuller
Summer 1948
Black Mountain College

Photographs: Beaumont Newhall. Courtesy of the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate, Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd., Santa Fe, New Mexico. © Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate.


The Dome Model with Si Sillman (bending), Buckminster Fuller, Elaine de Kooning, Roger Lovelace, and Josef Albers (left);  Albert Lanier laying the strips (center); Unidentified person and Paul Williams connecting the points.
Photographs: Beaumont Newhall. Courtesy of the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate, Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd., Santa Fe, New Mexico. © Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate.
Willie Joseph, Elaine de Kooning, Si Sillman, Buckminster Fuller, and unidentifed woman survey the project (left); a valiant effort to raise the dome (right.Photographs: Beaumont Newhall. Photograph:Photographs: Beaumont Newhall. Courtesy of the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate, Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd., Santa Fe, New Mexico. © Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Estate.

Buckminster Fuller’s project for the 1948 summer was construction of his first dome, a 31-great-circle structure with a forty-eight foot diameter, a height of twenty-three feet, and an area of fifteen hundred square feet. It was to weigh less than 270 pounds. The students measured the strips and computed the tensile strength of each unit. Each strip was coded and the points marked where they would meet.

On a rainy day Fuller and his students gathered in a grassy area. The rest of the community watched from the Studies Building or the nearby FHA units as the class began to connect the points on the strips. When the dome did not rise, it was named the Supine Dome by – as the story is told – Elaine de Kooning, a member of the class.

Robert W. Marks in The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller (1960) wrote that Fuller, who was concerned with critical capacities of structures and wished to avoid overbuilding, “intentionally designed this structure so that its delicate system gently collapsed as it neared completion.” Fuller then, according to Marks, added additional strips until it assumed a dome form. In fact, this did not happen. Fuller did, however, reassure his class that “failure” is a part of the process of inventing, and success is achieved when one stops failing, a valuable lesson for the young students. Some recall that Fuller realized the dome would not rise but decided nevertheless to go ahead and complete the class project.

Buckminster Fuller      

Date/place of birth:
12 July 1895
Milton, Massachusetts
Date/place of death:
1 July 1983
Los Angeles, California

Relationship to the college:
Guest Faculty
1948 Summer Session in the Arts
Director and Guest Faculty
1949 Art Institute

When Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg, who had agreed to teach at the 1948 summer session at Black Mountain, had to cancel at the last minute, he recommended Buckminster Fuller as a replacement. Despite Albers’s reservations about inviting an unknown person at the last minute, he extended the invitation, and Fuller arrived two weeks after the session opened. Only two days later, Albers wrote to Goldberg thanking him for sending Fuller, who the previous evening had given a three-hour lecture. The college hoped he would return.

In 1948 Fuller was at a turning point in his life. His Dymaxion Dwelling Unit (Wichita House), though hailed as a low-cost solution to the postwar housing crisis, had, like his previous Dymaxion inventions, never reached production. In the meantime, he had immersed himself in a study of the geometry of geodesics, a term that describes an arc of intercrossing great circles on a spherical form. His first application of this geometry was the Dymaxion World Map – a map which when flattened minimized the distortion of land and water masses. The map received a patent in 1946.

Buckminster Fuller, 1948. Photograph by Hazel Larsen Archer. The dome in the upper left corner is the model for the “supine” dome. Permission Erika Zarow.

The second application of geodesic geometry to a specific project was the creation of hemispherical domes which could be used as houses or span vast areas. The project for the summer of 1948 was construction of his first dome based on geodesic geometry. When the dome of Venetian blind strips did not rise as predicted, it was christened the Supine Dome. (Supine Dome)

The summer at Black Mountain was Fuller’s first teaching experience and it took place at a critical moment in his career. Most of the community sat in on his classes and students as well as many faculty were captivated not only by his presentation of geodesic geometry but also by his vision for a world in which technology would provide solutions to the worlds problems of housing, hunger and other dilemmas. Among the students officially registered in Fuller’s class were four who would become architects and designer/builders: Albert Lanier, Lu Lubroth, Warren Outten, and Paul Williams as well as a young art student from Oregon, Kenneth Snelson.

The summer at Black Mountain was one of the college’s most successful. The guest faculty included, besides Fuller, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning, Richard Lippold, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., and Beaumont Newhall. Besides teaching his class in architecture, Fuller played the role of the Baron Medusa in the production of Erik Satie’s Le Piège de Méduse directed by a student Arthur Penn.

Fuller spent the winter teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago where he lived with Warren Outten and Mary Phelan Outten (Bowles), two Black Mountain students from the 1948 summer.

At Black Mountain over the 1948-49 winter a crisis culminated in the resignations of Theodore Dreier, the last of the college founders, along with Josef and Anni Albers and other members of the arts faculty. On the recommendation of Josef Albers, the remaining faculty asked Fuller to return to direct the 1949 summer session. Fuller accepted and invited as summer faculty Chicago friends and colleagues: Emerson and Diana Woelffer, John and Jano Walley, and two Indian dancers, Vashi and Pra-Veena. He also brought a group of students, his “Twelve Disciples” (Black Mountain designation): Louis Caviani, Arthur Boericke, Eugene Godfrey, Mary Jo Slick Godfrey, Joseph Manulik, Alan Lindsay, Jeffrey Lindsay, Ysidore Martinez, Donald Richter, Robert Richter, Masato Nakagawa, and Harold Young.

The plan for the summer was to continue work on the Autonomous Dwelling Facility with a Geodesic Structure which Fuller and his students had designed at the Institute of Design. He brought with him a small model showing the dome and enclosed house. The dome, which could be collapsed and moved, provided a controlled environment; the house could also be collapsed into a trailer-like form and transported. The project for the summer was to make and test an double-walled plastic cover for the dome. (Autonomous Dwelling Unit)

The second project was to cast fibreglass forms for a different dome. Each form was to have a compound curvature (both concave and complex). A plaster mold was made and then laid with fibreglass cloth laminated with resin. Unfortunately, in the heat and humidity of the summer, the fibreglass would not dry, and the project was abandoned.

Students (left to right): Joseph Manulik, Eugene Godfrey, Mary Jo Godfrey, Jerry Levy.

Photograph Kenneth Snelson.

Fuller’s two summers at Black Mountain were to have far-reaching influence. Among other things, he attributed his considerable success in lecturing to Arthur Penn, a young student who was later to become a successful director of film and stage. Penn had used techniques to help Fuller forget himself and assume the role of another character. The friendships formed in the summer of 1948 with John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Ruth Asawa, Theodore and Barbara Dreier, and Josef and Anni Albers were to last a life-time. The Institute of Design students were to form the core of those involved in the further development of Fuller’s domes.

Among the visitors in the summer of 1948 was James Fitzgibbon who had taught with Henry Kamphoefner at the University of Oklahoma. Kamphoefner had been invited to head the newly formed School of Architecture (presently, School of Design) at the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (presently, North Carolina State University) in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fitzgibbon was to join him there. As part of his program to modernize and revitalize the curriculum, Kamphoefner planned to invite esteemed guest lecturers. Fitzgibbon recommended Fuller, and Fuller gave his first lectures in Raleigh in March 1949. In later years faculty assisted Fuller with technological and design assistance for the domes. James Fitzgibbbon was a Fellow in the Fuller Research Foundation, and in 1955 he started his own firm Synergetics Inc. in Raleigh. (David Louis Sterrett Brook, Henry Leveke Kamphoefner, the Modernist, Dean of the North Carolina State University School of Design 1948-1972 © Draft manuscript, May 1, 2007)

Great article:

  1. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was one of the most inventive, influential, and inspiring figures of the 20th century. Through his ideas and inventions, his teaching and lecturing around the globe, he influenced current thought in a wide variety of fields, including commercial and industrial design, mathematics, the sciences, the arts and architecture. His basic approach was to apply both scientific knowledge and creativity to think “outside the box” when attempting to solve practical problems. Bucky’s foremost concern was to find ways to “do more with less” and to use resources most efficiently to serve humanity. He invented the term “Spaceship Earth” to encourage people to see the entire world as one interdependent system. During his life and career, Fuller was awarded 25 U.S. patents, wrote 28 books, received 47 honorary doctorate degrees, circled the Earth 57 times consulting and lecturing, and received dozens of major architectural and design awards along with the prestigious Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in America. Buckminster Fuller taught at Black Mountain College in the summers of 1948 and 1949, and he served as the Director of the BMC Summer Institute in 1949.



{mosimage}The exhibition IDEAS+ INVENTIONS: Buckminster Fuller and Black Mountain College will include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works that present and explore Fuller’s ideas. Also included in the show will be photographs taken of him and his students at Black Mountain College during the summers of 1948 and 1949, a Dymaxion map, and an autographed drawing of a geodesic dome. People can assemble models based on Fuller’s inventions and fully experience his genius in a special hands-on area.


In working with architectural forms, Fuller realized that virtually all traditional building had been based on the rectangle as a fundamental structural unit. He discovered, however, that the most stable structural form is not the rectangle but the triangle. The geodesic dome is therefore constructed of any number of equilateral triangles connected at angles to one another to form a dome, which is actually one-half of a sphere. The word “geodesic” is used to describe the geometry of curved surfaces. This building form is scalable to any size, so that anything from a child’s toy to the 20-story high dome built in Montreal for the 1967 World’s Fair is based on exactly the same principle. The dome uses the “doing more with less” idea in that it encloses the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area thus saving on materials and cost. At Black Mountain College in 1948 and ’49, Fuller and students spent a great deal of time working on the design and construction of geodesic domes. In 1948, their attempt to build the first large-scale dome (with venetian blind strips!) failed, and the structure was subsequently referred to as the “Supine Dome”. The next summer, with sturdier materials, they were successful. Photographs from both of these endeavors will be on view in the exhibition.

The Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center is located at 56 Broadway in downtown Asheville. Hours are 12-4 pm Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment.

Buckminster Fuller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the EP by Nerina Pallot, see Buckminster Fuller EP.
Buckminster Fuller
Born Richard Buckminster Fuller
July 12, 1895
Milton, Massachusetts,
United States
Died July 1, 1983 (aged 87)
Los Angeles, United States
Occupation Designer, author, inventor
Spouse(s) Anne Hewlett (m. 1917)

Richard BuckminsterBuckyFuller (/ˈfʊlər/; July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983)[1] was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor.

Fuller published more than 30 books, coining or popularizing terms such as “Spaceship Earth“, ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres.

Buckminster Fuller was the second president of Mensa from 1974 to 1983.[2]

Guinea Pig B:

I AM NOW CLOSE TO 88 and I am confident that the only thing important about me is that I am an average healthy human. I am also a living case history of a thoroughly documented, half-century, search-and-research project designed to discover what, if anything, an unknown, moneyless individual, with a dependent wife and newborn child, might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity that could not be accomplished by great nations, great religions or private enterprise, no matter how rich or powerfully armed.
Bucky Fuller, 1983[3]

Buckminster Fuller – Best Interview (1974)


Fuller was born on July 12, 1895, in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller and Caroline Wolcott Andrews, and also the grandnephew of the American Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller. He attended Froebelian Kindergarten.[citation needed] Spending much of his youth on Bear Island, in Penobscot Bay off the coast of Maine, he had trouble with geometry, being unable to understand the abstraction necessary to imagine that a chalk dot on the blackboard represented a mathematical point, or that an imperfectly drawn line with an arrow on the end was meant to stretch off to infinity. He often made items from materials he brought home from the woods, and sometimes made his own tools. He experimented with designing a new apparatus for human propulsion of small boats. By the age of 12 he had “invented” a ‘push pull’ system for propelling a row boat through the use of an inverted umbrella connected to the transom with a simple oar lock which allowed the user to face forward to point the boat toward its destination. Later in life Fuller took exception to the term “invention”.

Years later, he decided that this sort of experience had provided him with not only an interest in design, but also a habit of being familiar with and knowledgeable about the materials that his later projects would require. Fuller earned a machinist’scertification, and knew how to use the press brake, stretch press, and other tools and equipment used in the sheet metal trade.[4]


Fuller attended Milton Academy in Massachusetts, and after that began studying at Harvard University, where he was affiliated with Adams House. He was expelled from Harvard twice: first for spending all his money partying with a vaudeville troupe, and then, after having been readmitted, for his “irresponsibility and lack of interest.” By his own appraisal, he was a non-conforming misfit in the fraternity environment.[4]

Wartime experience[edit]

Between his sessions at Harvard, Fuller worked in Canada as a mechanic in a textile mill, and later as a laborer in the meat-packing industry. He also served in the U.S. Navy in World War I, as a shipboard radio operator, as an editor of a publication, and as a crash rescue boat commander. After discharge, he worked again in the meat packing industry, acquiring management experience. In 1917, he married Anne Hewlett. During the early 1920s, he and his father-in-law developed the Stockade Building System for producing light-weight, weatherproof, and fireproof housing—although the company would ultimately fail[4] in 1927.[5]

Depression and epiphany[edit]

Buckminster Fuller recalled 1927 as a pivotal year of his life. Fuller was still feeling responsible for the death of his daughter Alexandra, who had died in 1922 from complications from polio and spinal meningitis[6] just prior to her fourth birthday.[7] Fuller felt a personal responsibility for her death, wondering if her death may have been caused by the Fullers’ damp and drafty living conditions.[7] This provided motivation for Fuller’s involvement in Stockade Building Systems, a business which aimed to provide affordable, efficient housing.[7]

In 1927 Fuller, then aged 32, lost his job as president of Stockade. The Fuller family had no savings to fall back upon, and the birth of their daughter Allegra in 1927 added to the financial challenges. Fuller was drinking heavily and reflecting upon the solution to his family’s struggles on long walks around Chicago. During the autumn of 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide, so that his family could benefit from a life insurance payment.[8]

Fuller said that he had experienced a profound incident which would provide direction and purpose for his life. He felt as though he was suspended several feet above the ground enclosed in a white sphere of light. A voice spoke directly to Fuller, and declared:

From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.[9]

Fuller stated that this experience led to a profound re-examination of his life. He ultimately chose to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”[10]

Speaking to audiences later in life, Fuller would regularly recount the story of his Lake Michigan experience, and its transformative impact on his life.[7] Historians have been unable to identify direct evidence for this experience within the 1927 papers of Fuller’s Chronofile archives, housed at Stanford University. Stanford historian Barry Katz suggests that the suicide story may be a myth which Fuller constructed later in life, to summarize this formative period of his career.[11]


In 1927 Fuller resolved to think independently which included a commitment to “the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them… finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more.”[citation needed] By 1928, Fuller was living in Greenwich Village and spending much of his time at the popular café Romany Marie‘s,[12] where he had spent an evening in conversation with Marie andEugene O’Neill several years earlier.[13] Fuller accepted a job decorating the interior of the café in exchange for meals,[12] giving informal lectures several times a week,[13][14] and models of the Dymaxion house were exhibited at the café. Isamu Noguchiarrived during 1929—Constantin Brâncuși, an old friend of Marie’s,[15] had directed him there[12]—and Noguchi and Fuller were soon collaborating on several projects,[14][16] including the modeling of the Dymaxion car based on recent work by Aurel Persu.[17] It was the beginning of their lifelong friendship.

Geodesic domes[edit]

Fuller taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina during the summers of 1948 and 1949,[18] serving as its Summer Institute director in 1949. There, 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 some 30 years earlier by Dr. Walther Bauersfeld, Fuller was awarded United States patents. He is credited for popularizing this type of structure.

One of his early models was first constructed in 1945 at Bennington College in Vermont, where he frequently lectured. In 1949, he erected his first geodesic dome building that could sustain its own weight with no practical limits. It was 4.3 meters (14 feet) in diameter and constructed of aluminium aircraft tubing and a vinyl-plastic skin, in the form of an icosahedron. To prove his design, Fuller suspended from the structure’s framework several students who had helped him build it. The U.S. government recognized the importance of his work, and employed his firm Geodesics, Inc. in Raleigh, North Carolina to make small domes for the Marines. Within a few years there were thousands of these domes around the world.

Fuller began working with architect Shoji Sadao in 1954, and in 1964 they co-founded the architectural firm Fuller & Sadao Inc., whose first project was to design the large geodesic dome for the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal.[19] Fuller’s first “continuous tension – discontinuous compression” geodesic dome (full sphere in this case) was constructed at the University of Oregon Architecture School in 1959 with the help of students.[20] These continuous tension – discontinuous compression structures featured single force compression members (no flexure or bending moments) that did not touch each other and were ‘suspended’ by the tensional members.

Best-known work[edit]

For the next half-century, Fuller developed many ideas, designs and inventions, particularly regarding practical, inexpensive shelter and transportation. He documented his life, philosophy and ideas scrupulously by a daily diary (later called the Dymaxion Chronofile), and by twenty-eight publications. Fuller financed some of his experiments with inherited funds, sometimes augmented by funds invested by his collaborators, one example being the Dymaxion car project.

World stage[edit]

The Montreal Biosphère by Buckminster Fuller, 1967

International recognition began with the success of huge geodesic domes during the 1950s. Fuller lectured at NC State University in Raleigh in 1949, where he met James Fitzgibbon, who would become a close friend and colleague. Fitzgibbon was director of Geodesics, Inc. and Synergetics, Inc. the first licensees to design geodesic domes. Thomas C. Howard was lead designer, architect and engineer for both companies. In 1964 Fuller co-founded the architectural firm Fuller & Sadao Inc., with Shoji Sadao.[19] From 1959 to 1970, Fuller taught at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU). Beginning as an assistant professor, he gained full professorship in 1968, in the School of Art and Design. Working as a designer, scientist, developer, and writer, he lectured for many years around the world. He collaborated at SIU with the designer John McHale. In 1965, Fuller inaugurated the World Design Science Decade (1965 to 1975) at the meeting of the International Union of Architects in Paris, which was, in his own words, devoted to “applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity.” Later in his SIU tenure, Fuller was also a visiting professor at SIU Edwardsville, where he designed the dome for the campus Religious Center.[21]

Fuller believed human societies would soon rely mainly on renewable sources of energy, such as solar- and wind-derived electricity. He hoped for an age of “omni-successful education and sustenance of all humanity.” Fuller referred to himself as “the property of universe” and during one radio interview he gave later in life, declared himself and his work “the property of all humanity”. For his lifetime of work, theAmerican Humanist Association named him the 1969 Humanist of the Year.

In 1976, Fuller was a key participant at UN Habitat I, the first UN forum on human settlements.


Fuller was awarded 28 United States patents[22] and many honorary doctorates. In 1960, he was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal from The Franklin Institute. Fuller was elected as an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1967, on the occasion of the 50th year reunion of his Harvard class of 1917 (from which he was expelled in his first year).[23][24] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968.[25] In 1968 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1970. In 1970 he received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects. He also received numerous other awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to him on February 23, 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.

Last filmed appearance[edit]

Fuller’s last filmed interview took place on April 3, 1983, in which he presented his analysis of Simon Rodia‘s Watts Towers as a unique embodiment of the structural principles found in nature. Portions of this interview appear in I Build the Tower, a documentary film on Rodia’s architectural masterpiece.


Gravestone (see trim tab)

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. They are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Philosophy and worldview[edit]

The grandson of Unitarian minister Arthur Buckminster Fuller,[26] R. Buckminster Fuller was also Unitarian.[27] Buckminster Fuller was an early environmental activist. He was very aware of the finite resources the planet has to offer, and promoted a principle that he termed “ephemeralization“, which, in essence—according to futurist and Fuller disciple Stewart Brand—Fuller coined to mean “doing more with less”.[28]Resources and waste material from cruder products could be recycled into making more valuable products, increasing the efficiency of the entire process. Fuller also introduced synergetics, an encompassing term which he used broadly as a metaphoric language for communicating experiences using geometric concepts and, more specifically, to reference the empirical study of systems in transformation, with an emphasis on total system behavior unpredicted by the behavior of any isolated components. Fuller coined this term long before the term synergy became popular.

Fuller was a pioneer in thinking globally, and he explored principles of energy and material efficiency in the fields of architecture, engineering and design.[29][30] He cited François de Chardenedes’ opinion that petroleum, from the standpoint of its replacement cost out of our current energy “budget” (essentially, the net incoming solar flux), had cost nature “over a million dollars” per U.S. gallon (US$300,000 per litre) to produce. From this point of view, its use as a transportation fuel by people commuting to work represents a huge net loss compared to their earnings.[31] An encapsulation quotation of his views might be, “There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance.”[32][33][34]

Fuller was concerned about sustainability and about human survival under the existing socio-economic system, yet remained optimistic about humanity’s future. Defining wealth in terms of knowledge, as the “technological ability to protect, nurture, support, and accommodate all growth needs of life,” his analysis of the condition of “Spaceship Earth” caused him to conclude that at a certain time during the 1970s, humanity had attained an unprecedented state. He was convinced that the accumulation of relevant knowledge, combined with the quantities of major recyclable resources that had already been extracted from the earth, had attained a critical level, such that competition for necessities was not necessary anymore. Cooperation had become the optimum survival strategy. “Selfishness,” he declared, “is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable…. War is obsolete.”[35] He criticized previous utopian schemes as too exclusive, and thought this was a major source of their failure. To work, he thought that a utopia needed to include everyone.[36]

So it is not surprising that he and others of his stature were attracted by Korzybski‘s ideas in general semantics. General semantics is a discipline of mind that seeks to unify persons and nations by changing their worldview reaction and the philosophy of their expression. In the 1950s Fuller attended seminars and workshops organized by the Institute of General Semantics, and he delivered the annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in 1955.[37] Korzybski is mentioned in the Introduction of his bookSynergetics. The two gentlemen shared a remarkable amount of similarity in their formulations of general semantics.[38]

In his 1970 book I Seem To Be a Verb, he wrote: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.”

Fuller wrote that the natural analytic geometry of the universe was based on arrays of tetrahedra. He developed this in several ways, from the close-packing of spheres and the number of compressive or tensile members required to stabilize an object in space. One confirming result was that the strongest possible homogeneous truss is cyclically tetrahedral.[39]

He had become a guru of the design, architecture, and ‘alternative’ communities, such as Drop City, the community of experimental artists to whom he awarded the 1966 “Dymaxion Award” for “poetically economic” domed living structures.

Major design projects[edit]

A geodesic sphere

The geodesic dome[edit]

Fuller was most famous for his lattice shell structuresgeodesic domes, which have been used as parts of military radar stations, civic buildings, environmental protest camps and exhibition attractions. An examination of the geodesic design by Walther Bauersfeld for the Zeiss-Planetarium, built some 20 years prior to Fuller’s work, reveals that Fuller’s Geodesic Dome patent (U.S. 2,682,235; awarded in 1954), follows the same design as Bauersfeld’s.[40]

Their 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. The Fuller Dome is referenced in the Hugo Award-winning novel Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, in which a geodesic dome is said to cover the entire island of Manhattan, and it floats on air due to the hot-air balloon effect of the large air-mass under the dome (and perhaps its construction of lightweight materials).[41]


Main article: Dymaxion car

The Omni-Media-Transport:
With such a vehicle at our disposal, [Fuller] felt that human travel, like that of birds, would nolonger be confined to airports, roads, and other bureaucratic boundaries, and that autonomous free-thinking human beings could live and prosper wherever they chose.[42]
Lloyd S. Sieden, Bucky Fuller’s Universe, 2000

To his young daughter Allegra:
Fuller described the Dymaxion as a “zoom-mobile, explaining that it could hop off the road at will, fly about, then, as deftly as a bird, settle back into a place in traffic.”[43]

The Dymaxion car, c.1933, artist Diego Riverashown entering the car, carrying coat

The Dymaxion car was a vehicle designed by Fuller, featured prominently at Chicago’s 1933-1934 Century of Progress World’s Fair.[44] During the Great Depression, Fuller formed the Dymaxion Corporationand built three prototypes with noted naval architect Starling Burgess and a team of 27 workmen — using gifted money as well as a family inheritance.[45][46]

Fuller associated the word Dymaxion with much of his work, a portmanteau of the words dynamic, maximum, and tension[47] to sum up the goal of his study, “maximum gain of advantage from minimal energy input.”[48]

The Dymaxion was not an automobile per se, but rather the ‘ground-taxying mode’ of a vehicle that might one day be designed to fly, land and drive — an “Omni-Medium Transport” for air, land and water.[49] Fuller focused on the landing and taxiing qualities, and noted severe limitations in its handling. The team made constant improvements and refinements to the platform,[42] and Fuller noted the Dymaxion “was an invention that could not be made available to the general public without considerable improvements.”[42]

The bodywork was aerodynamically designed for increased fuel efficiency and speed as well as light weight, and its platform featured a lightweight cromoly-steel hinged chassis, rear-mounted V8 engine, front-drive and three-wheels. The vehicle was steered via the third wheel at the rear, capable of 90° steering lock. Thus able to steer in a tight circle, the Dymaxion often caused a sensation, bringing nearby traffic to a halt.[50][51]

Shortly after launch, a prototype crashed after being hit by another car, killing the Dymaxion’s driver.[52] The other car was driven by a local politician and was illegally removed from the accident scene, leaving reporters who arrived subsequently to blame the Dymaxion’s unconventional design[53] — though investigations exonerated the prototype.[52] Fuller would himself later crash another prototype with his young daughter aboard.

Despite courting the interest of important figures from the auto industry, Fuller used his family inheritance to finish the second and third prototypes[54] — eventually selling all three, dissolving Dymaxion Corporation and maintaining the Dymaxion was never intended as a commercial venture.[55] One of the three original prototypes survives.


A Dymaxion house at The Henry Ford

Fuller’s energy-efficient and inexpensive Dymaxion house garnered much interest, but has never been produced. Here the term “Dymaxion” is used in effect to signify a “radically strong and light tensegrity structure”. One of Fuller’s Dymaxion Houses is on display as a permanent exhibit at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. Designed and developed during the mid-1940s, this prototype is a round structure (not a dome), shaped something like the flattened “bell” of certain jellyfish. It has several innovative features, including revolving dresser drawers, and a fine-mist shower that reduces water consumption. According to Fuller biographer Steve Crooks, the house was designed to be delivered in two cylindrical packages, with interior color panels available at local dealers. A circular structure at the top of the house was designed to rotate around a central mast to use natural winds for cooling and air circulation.

Conceived nearly two decades before, and developed in Wichita, Kansas, the house was designed to be lightweight and adapted to windy climates. It was to be inexpensive to produce and purchase, and assembled easily. It was to be produced using factories, workers, and technologies that had produced World War II aircraft. It was ultramodern-looking at the time, built of metal, and sheathed in polished aluminum. The basic model enclosed 90 m2 (970 sq ft) of floor area. Due to publicity, there were many orders during the early Post-War years, but the company that Fuller and others had formed to produce the houses failed due to management problems.

In 1969, Fuller began the Otisco Project, named after its location in Otisco, New York. The project developed and demonstrated concrete spray technology used in conjunction with mesh covered wireforms as a viable means of producing large scale, load bearing spanning structures built on site without the use of pouring molds, other adjacent surfaces or hoisting.

The initial construction method used a circular concrete footing in which anchor posts were set. Tubes cut to length and with ends flattened were then bolted together to form a duodeca-rhombicahedron (22-sided hemisphere) geodesic structure with spans ranging to 60 feet (18 m). The form was then draped with layers of ¼-inch wire mesh attached by twist ties. Concrete was then sprayed onto the structure, building up a solid layer which, when cured, would support additional concrete to be added by a variety of traditional means. Fuller referred to these buildings as monolithic ferroconcrete geodesic domes. The tubular frame form proved too problematic when it came to setting windows and doors, and was abandoned. The second method used iron rebar set vertically in the concrete footing and then bent inward and welded in place to create the dome’s wireform structure and performed satisfactorily. Domes up to three stories tall built with this method proved to be remarkably strong. Other shapes such as cones, pyramids and arches proved equally adaptable.

The project was enabled by a grant underwritten by Syracuse University and sponsored by US Steel (rebar), the Johnson Wire Corp, (mesh) and Portland Cement Company (concrete). The ability to build large complex load bearing concrete spanning structures in free space would open many possibilities in architecture, and is considered as one of Fuller’s greatest contributions.

Dymaxion map and World Game[edit]

Fuller also designed an alternative projection map, called the Dymaxion map. This was designed to show Earth’s continents with minimum distortion when projected or printed on a flat surface. In the 1960s, Fuller developed the World Game, a collaborative simulation game played on a 70-by-35-foot Dymaxion map,[56] in which players attempt to solve world problems.[57][58] The object of the simulation game is, in Fuller’s words, to “make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”[59]


Following his global prominence from the 1960s onward, Fuller became a frequent flier, often crossing time zones to lecture in international cities. In the 1960s and 70s, he wore three watches simultaneously; one for the time zone of his office inCarbondale, one for the time zone of the location he would next visit, and one for the time zone he was currently in.[60]:290[61][62] In the 1970s, Fuller was only in ‘homely’ locations (his personal home in Carbondale, Illinois; his holiday retreat in Bear Island, Maine; his daughter’s home in Pacific Palisades, California) roughly 65 nights per year—the other 300 nights were spent in hotel beds in the locations he visited on his lecturing and consulting circuits.[60]:290

In the 1920s, Fuller experimented with polyphasic sleep, which he called Dymaxion sleep. Inspired by the sleep habits of the animals such as dogs and cats,[63]:133 Fuller worked until he was tired, and then slept short naps. This generally resulted in Fuller sleeping 30-minute naps every 6 hours.[60]:160 This allowed Bucky “twenty-two thinking hours a day”, which aided his work productivity.[60]:160 Fuller reportedly kept this Dymaxion sleep habit for two years, before quitting the routine because it conflicted with his business associates’ sleep habits.[64] Despite no longer personally partaking in the habit, in 1943 Fuller suggested Dymaxion sleep as a strategy that the United States could adopt to win World War II.[64]

Despite only practising true polyphasic sleep for a period during the 1920s, Fuller was known for his stamina throughout his life. He was described as “tireless”[65]:53 by Barry Farrell in Life Magazine, who noted that Fuller stayed up all night replying to mail during Farrell’s 1970 trip to Bear Island.[65]:55 When he was aged in his seventies, Fuller generally slept for 5–8 hours per night.[60]:160

Fuller documented his life copiously from 1915 to 1983, approximately 270 feet (82 m) of papers in a collection called the Dymaxion Chronofile. He also kept copies of all incoming and outgoing correspondence. The enormous Fuller Collection is currently housed at Stanford University.

If somebody kept a very accurate record of a human being, going through the era from the Gay 90s, from a very different kind of world through the turn of the century—as far into the twentieth century as you might live. I decided to make myself a good case history of such a human being and it meant that I could not be judge of what was valid to put in or not. I must put everything in, so I started a very rigorous record.[66][67]

In his youth, Fuller experimented with several ways of presenting himself: R. B. Fuller, Buckminster Fuller, but as an adult finally settled on R. Buckminster Fuller, and signed his letters as such. However, he preferred to be addressed as simply “Bucky”.

Language and neologisms[edit]

Buckminster Fuller spoke and wrote in a unique style and said it was important to describe the world as accurately as possible.[68] Fuller often created long run-on sentences and used unusual compound words (omniwell-informed, intertransformative, omni-interaccommodative, omniself-regenerative) as well as terms he himself invented.[69]

Fuller used the word Universe without the definite or indefinite articles (the or a) and always capitalized the word. Fuller wrote that “by Universe I mean: the aggregate of all humanity’s consciously apprehended and communicated (to self or others) Experiences.”[70]

The words “down” and “up”, according to Fuller, are awkward in that they refer to a planar concept of direction inconsistent with human experience. The words “in” and “out” should be used instead, he argued, because they better describe an object’s relation to a gravitational center, the Earth. “I suggest to audiences that they say, ‘I’m going “outstairs” and “instairs.”‘ At first that sounds strange to them; They all laugh about it. But if they try saying in and out for a few days in fun, they find themselves beginning to realize that they are indeed going inward and outward in respect to the center of Earth, which is our Spaceship Earth. And for the first time they begin to feel real ‘reality.'”[71]

“World-around” is a term coined by Fuller to replace “worldwide”. The general belief in a flat Earth died out in classical antiquity, so using “wide” is an anachronism when referring to the surface of the Earth—a spheroidal surface has area and encloses a volume but has no width. Fuller held that unthinking use of obsolete scientific ideas detracts from and misleads intuition. Other neologisms collectively invented by the Fuller family, according to Allegra Fuller Snyder, are the terms “sunsight” and “sunclipse”, replacing “sunrise” and “sunset” to overturn the geocentric bias of most pre-copernican celestial mechanics.

Fuller also invented the word “livingry,” as opposed to weaponry (or “killingry”), to mean that which is in support of all human, plant, and Earth life. “The architectural profession—civil, naval, aeronautical, and astronautical—has always been the place where the most competent thinking is conducted regarding livingry, as opposed to weaponry.”[72]

As well as contributing significantly to the development of tensegrity technology, Fuller invented the term “tensegrity” from tensional integrity. “Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional member behaviors. Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder.”[73]

Dymaxion” is a portmanteau of “dynamic maximum tension”. It was invented about 1929 by two admen at Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago to describe Fuller’s concept house, which was shown as part of a house of the future store display. They created the term utilizing three words that Fuller used repeatedly to describe his design – dynamic, maximum, and ion.[74]

Fuller also helped to popularize the concept of Spaceship Earth: “The most important fact about Spaceship Earth: an instruction manual didn’t come with it.”[75]

Concepts and buildings[edit]

His concepts and buildings include:

Influence and legacy[edit]

Among the many people who were influenced by Buckminster Fuller are: Constance Abernathy,[78] Ruth Asawa,[79] J. Baldwin,[80][81] Michael Ben-Eli,[82] Pierre Cabrol,[83] John Cage, Joseph Clinton,[84] Peter Floyd,[82] Medard Gabel,[85] Michael Hays,[82]David Johnston,[86] Robert Kiyosaki,[87] Peter Jon Pearce,[82] Shoji Sadao,[82] Edwin Schlossberg,[82] Kenneth Snelson,[79][88][89] Robert Anton Wilson[90] and Stewart Brand.[91]

An allotrope of carbon, fullerene—and a particular molecule of that allotrope C60 (buckminsterfullerene or buckyball) has been named after him. The Buckminsterfullerene molecule, which consists of 60 carbon atoms, very closely resembles a spherical version of Fuller’s geodesic dome. The 1996 Nobel prize in chemistry was given to Kroto, Curl, and Smalley for their discovery of the fullerene.[92]

He is quoted in the lyric of “The Tower Of Babble” in the musical “Godspell:” “Man is a complex of patterns and processes.”[93]

On July 12, 2004, the United States Post Office released a new commemorative stamp honoring R. Buckminster Fuller on the 50th anniversary of his patent for the geodesic dome and by the occasion of his 109th birthday. The stamp’s design replicated the January 10, 1964 cover of Time Magazine.

Fuller was the subject of two documentary films: The World of Buckminster Fuller (1971) and Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud (1996). Additionally, filmmaker Sam Green and the band Yo La Tengo collaborated on a 2012 “live documentary” about Fuller, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller.[94]

In June 2008, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe”, the most comprehensive retrospective to date of his work and ideas.[95] The exhibition traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicagoin 2009. It presented a combination of models, sketches, and other artifacts, representing six decades of the artist’s integrated approach to housing, transportation, communication, and cartography. It also featured the extensive connections with Chicago from his years spent living, teaching, and working in the city.[96]

In 2012, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosted “The Utopian Impulse” – a show about Buckminster Fuller’s influence in the Bay Area. Featured were concepts, inventions and designs for creating “free energy” from natural forces, and for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. The show ran January through July.[97]




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