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Spotlight: Buckminster Fuller

Pioneering radical Buckminster Fuller, (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) an inventor, architect and the second president of Mensa, had a massive impact on the architecture and popular culture of the latter 20th century. Most famous for popularizing the geodesic dome, Fuller is also known as the father of sustainability, and was driven by his intention “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

GIVEAWAY: The Architect Says Notebooks

"Form ever follows function." "Less is more." Architects have long been providing us with inspirational quips and reflections on our profession. And now, thanks to our friends at Princeton Architectural Press, you can win a set a notebooks that feature the compelling words of Le Corbusier, R. Buckminster Fuller, and Cesar Pelli. The gold-stamped, gridded notebooks are a companion to  Laura Dushkes' best-selling book The Architect Says

Read on to find out how you can win a set of The Architect Says Notebooks!

Read Through Buckminster Fuller's FBI File

An unconventional man with radical ideas, Buckminster Fuller was an "affable weirdo" and "counterculture icon" who, as Gizmodo reports, often caught the attention of the FBI. For the first time ever, his (heavily redacted) FBI files have been released, revealing some of the reasons why the FBI felt the need to keep tabs on the world famous architect and designer, including speculations regarding Fuller and the Soviet Union. Though it seems nothing ever went beyond speculation, the files are fascinating. You can read them in full, here

Car Talk Deems Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car a Complete Failure

Car Talk has written a scathing review on Buckminster Fuller's three-wheeled Dymaxion Car, 81 years after its unveiling. The famed architect and inventor, known best for his geodesic dome, hoped to revolutionize the car industry with a three-wheeled, 20 foot-long, "highly aerodynamic" reinvention of the car. 

The Architectural Lab: A History Of World Expos

The Universal Exposition of 1889. Image © Wikimedia Commons
The Universal Exposition of 1889. Image © Wikimedia Commons

World Expos have long been important in advancing architectural innovation and discourse. Many of our most beloved monuments were designed and constructed specifically for world’s fairs, only to remain as iconic fixtures in the cities that host them. But what is it about Expos that seem to create such lasting architectural landmarks, and is this still the case today? Throughout history, each new Expo offered architects an opportunity to present radical ideas and use these events as a creative laboratory for testing bold innovations in design and building technology. World’s fairs inevitably encourage competition, with every country striving to put their best foot forward at almost any cost. This carte blanche of sorts allows architects to eschew many of the programmatic constraints of everyday commissions and concentrate on expressing ideas in their purest form. Many masterworks such as Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion (better known as the Barcelona Pavilion) for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition are so wholeheartedly devoted to their conceptual approach that they could only be possible in the context of an Exposition pavilion.

To celebrate the opening of Expo Milano 2015 tomorrow, we’ve rounded up a few of history’s most noteworthy World Expositions to take a closer look at their impact on architectural development.

1964 New York World’s Fair . Image via People for the Pavillion website Buckminster Fuller's Dome. Image © Flickr user abdallahh Barcelona Pavilion. Image © Gili Merin Kiyonari Kikutake's Landmark Tower

Rare Interview with Buckminster Fuller on the Geodesic Life

"I must reorganize the environment of man by which then greater numbers of men can prosper,” says Buckminster Fuller in this rare interview on the Geodesic Life with Studs Terkel (recorded in 1965 and 1970). Animated by Jennifer Yoo and produced by Blank and Blank, this interview has been brought to life as the first of “The Experimenters” mini-series that features rare interviews with Bucky, Jane Goodall, and Richard Feynman focusing on science, technology and innovation. 

Proyecto Helicoide: Reviving Venezuela's Unfinished Modernist Utopia

Although construction was never completed, "El Helicoide" ("The Helix") in Caracas is one of the most important relics of the Modern movement in Venezuela. The 73,000 square meter project - designed in 1955 by Jorge Romero Gutiérrez, Peter Neuberger and Dirk Bornhorst - takes the form of a double spiral topped by a large geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. It was characterized by a series of ascending and descending ramps meant to carry visitors to its variety of programmatic spaces - including 320 shops, a 5 star hotel, offices, a playground, a television studio and a space for events and conventions. 

Today, Proyecto Helicoide (Project Helix) seeks to rescue the urban history and memory of the building through a series of exhibitions, publications and educational activities. More details on the initiative, after the break.

Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Dome Home to be Restored as Museum

On April 19, Southern Illinois University will begin to restore the world’s first geodesic dome home, built by Buckminster Fuller. Originally assembled in just seven hours from 60 wooden triangle panels, the dome was occupied by Fuller and his wife, Lady Anne, in the 1960s during his residency at SIU. After Fuller’s death, the dome was used as student housing before falling into disrepair. In 2001, the home was donated to a non-profit that had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. It will now be restored and preserved as a museum in Carbondale. 

Game Changer: Alistair Parvin

Metropolis Magazine has unveiled its 4th annual Game Changers - including architects Eric Owen Moss and Alistair Parvin, the co-founder of WikiHouse, an open-sourced platform for architecture. In the following article, Jonathan Glancey profiles Parvin and asks: is WikiHouse a threat to architects? Or "a glimpse into our digital design future"?

I first met WikiHouse cofounder Alastair Parvin—not in the flesh, of course, much less in print—courtesy of YouTube. You can do the same by watching his lecture, “Architecture for the People by the People.” In the video, Parvin explains the WikiHouse concept to the 2013 annual TED conference in Long Beach, California. Looking young and trim in a white shirt and blue jeans, Parvin’s voice is chipper and confident as he delivers his provocative idea to the world.

Given that the 1,600 TED lectures that are currently available online have been viewed more than a billion times, you may have already heard a little about the WikiHouse by now. In case you haven’t, it’s “an open- source construction set,” according to the WikiHouse online collaborative. “The aim is to allow anyone to design, download, and ‘print’ CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal skill or training.”

AD Round Up: Unbuilt Classics

This AD Round Up is dedicated to unbuilt classics, a selection of projects and ideas that, although never built, contributed greatly to the canon of twentieth century architecture. In 1920, Buckminister Fuller designed the Dymaxion House, which displayed forward-thinking innovations in sustainability and prefabrication. In 1924, Le Corbusier’s radical plan for Ville Radieuse (The Radiant City) had an extensive influence upon modern urban planning and led to the development of new high-density housing typologies. In the same year Friedrick Kiesler introduced his "Endless House", the basis for his subsequent manifesto of Correalism. Eight years later in 1932, Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock curated the “Modern Architecture: International exhibition” at the MoMA, introducing the emerging International Style and laying the principles for Modern architecture. And finally, one of Archigram’s most famous utopian visions, the Plug-In City, proposed by Peter Cook in 1964, offered a fascinating new approach to urbanism and reversed traditional perceptions of infrastructure’s role in the city.

Buckminster Fuller's 50-Foot "Fly's Eye" Dome to be Restored

Noted architectural historian and preservationist Robert Rubin has purchased the largest of Buckmister Fuller's "Fly's Eye" domes and plans to reopen it to the public this summer for the first time in 30 years. 

"Everything I Know": 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller

In January of 1975, Buckminster Fuller sat down to deliver twelve lectures that made up the 42-hour series Everything I Know. The entire event was captured on video, with the most advanced, bluescreen technology of the time. Fuller discusses an array of topics, from “architecture, design, philosophy, education, mathematics, geometry, cartography, economics, history, structure, industry, housing and engineering”, to all his major inventions and discoveries, along with “his own personal history in the context of the history of science and industrialization”.

The embedded video above is recompiled and edited version of the series. You may download the entire 42-hours (for free!) from the Internet Archive. The Buckminster Fuller archive has also made transcripts of Everything I Know - “minimally edited and maximally Fuller” – freely available.

Continue after the break for links to the remaining lectures.

SFMoMA Exhibit: "The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area"

1.	Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Building Construction/Geodesic Dome, United States Patent Office no. 2,682,235, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.
1. Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Building Construction/Geodesic Dome, United States Patent Office no. 2,682,235, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 in. x 40 in. (76.2 cm x 101.6 cm); Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, All Rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.

If you are in the Bay Area this weekend, we recommend you stop in at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and check out their current exhibit The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area. This exhibition is the first of its kind, featuring Buckminster Fuller’s most iconic projects as well a focus on his local design legacy in the Bay Area. Though he was never a resident, Fuller’s ideas inspired many local experiments in the realms of technology, engineering and sustainability. Continue reading for more information.

Video: Manhattan Memorious / Reiser + Umemoto

Created by Reiser + Umemoto for the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale, “Manhattan Memorious” explores what Manhattan could have been. The film visualizes several unrealized projects from Manhattan, including Buckminster Fuller’s dome over Midtown, Rem Koolhaas’ City of the Captive Globe, RUR’s East River Corridor, Paul Rudolph’s Eastside Redevelopment Corridor, Morphosis’ West Side Yard and others.

Restoration of Buckminster Fuller’s iconic Fly’s Eye Dome at America’s Cup

Goetz Composites, fabricators of some of the most successful race boats in the world including three of today’s most high profile yachts as well as ten America’s Cup racing yachts completed a historic restoration of one of Buckminster Fuller‘s most iconic structures, the 24 foot Fly’s Eye Dome. Patented in 1965, Fuller created two prototypes of this structure; a 24 foot and 50 foot dome. Fuller writes in his seminal book, Critical Path that “the Fly’s Eye domes are designed as part of a ‘livingry’ service. The basic hardware components will produce a beautiful, fully equipped air-deliverable house that weighs and costs about as much as a good automobile. Not only will it be highly efficient in its use of energy and materials, it also will be capable of harvesting incoming light and wind energies.” More images and information after the break.

Video: Norman Foster Recreates Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car

“I was privileged to collaborate with Bucky for the last 12 years of his life and this had a profound influence on my own work and thinking. Inevitably, I also gained an insight into his philosophy and achievements,” shared Lord Norman Foster.

Recreating the legendary futuristic Dymaxion Car, Foster’s No. 4 version was a lengthy and expensive two year project, but was obviously a labor of love. Buckminster Fuller’s futuristic three wheeled car was brief, with a mere three actually built. Incredibly efficient the streamlined body with long tail-fin averaged 35 miles to the gallon and could achieve 120 mph. The Zeppelin inspired design with a V8 Ford engine was intended to fly as well, Fuller’s vision of revolutionizing how people traveled.

More following the break.

Bucky Fuller & Spaceship Earth, curated by Foster

Buckminster Fuller
Buckminster Fuller

What: Ivorypress Art + Books is to stage an exhibition of the work of Buckminster Fuller Where: Madrid, Spain When: From September 1st to October 30th Curated by Norman Foster and Luis Fernández-Galiano, the exhibition brings the different strands of Bucky’s influential career together with original drawings and models and will be the first chance to see the recently completed recreation of the Dymaxion Car. In Lord Foster´s words: “I was privileged to collaborate with Bucky for the last 12 years of his life and this had a profound influence on my own work and thinking. Inevitably, I also gained an insight into his philosophy and achievements. With Luis Fernández-Galiano, my co-curator for this exhibition, we have tried to show Bucky and the broad range of his work in the context of his time.”