Buckminster Fuller

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Buckminster Fuller : biography

July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983

In 1943, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser asked Fuller to develop a prototype for a smaller car, but Fuller’s five-seater design was never developed further.

Housing

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 (1000 square feet) 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 . 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.

Alternative map projection

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.

Patents

(from the Table of Contents of Inventions: The Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller (1983) ISBN 0-312-43477-4)

  • 1927 Stockade: Building Structure
  • 1927 Stockade: Pneumatic Forming Process
  • 1928 (Application Abandoned) 4D House
  • 1937 Dymaxion Car
  • 1940 Dymaxion Bathroom
  • 1944 Dymaxion Deployment Unit (sheet)
  • 1944 Dymaxion Deployment Unit (frame)
  • 1946 Dymaxion Map
  • 1946 (No Patent) Dymaxion House (Wichita)
  • 1954 Geodesic Dome
  • 1959 Paperboard Dome
  • 1959 Plydome
  • 1959 Catenary (Geodesic Tent)
  • 1961 Octet Truss
  • 1962 Tensegrity
  • 1963 Submarisle (Undersea Island)
  • 1964 Aspension (Suspension Building)
  • 1965 Monohex (Geodesic Structures)
  • 1965 Laminar Dome
  • 1965 (Filed – No Patent) Octa Spinner
  • 1967 Star Tensegrity (Octahedral Truss)
  • 1970 Rowing Needles (Watercraft)
  • 1974 Geodesic Hexa-Pent
  • 1975 Floatable Breakwater
  • 1975 Non-symmetrical Tensegrity
  • 1979 Floating Breakwater
  • 1980 Tensegrity Truss
  • 1983 Hanging Storage Shelf Unit