Own Your Own Bucky

by Claudia Dias on July 9, 2009

Ephemeralization‘, one of R. Buckminster Fuller’s theories shows how to approach the serious purpose of design, as opposed to the triviality of mere styling, in his own words, with ‘applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity.’ 
Although his work is based on the concept of mass-production (ca. 300,000 geodesic domes based on his patent where erected between 1954-1983 world wide), Buckminster Fuller’s smaller works have reached collectable value and can be acquired in some US galleries (some as secondary market).


Setting up an exhibition with Buckminster Fuller prints and collapsable models last year for Sebastian+Barquet Gallery (NY) at the DesignArt London fair, I was surprised how Fuller’s work was still being ignored and was completely unrecognized compared to his European contemporary colleagues. Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati started collaborating with Fuller in 1972, issuing limited editions of the Dymaxion World Map, collapsable models and sculptures,  a two-hull rowing shell (catamaran in an edition of 100) and a portfolio with 13 screenprinted sheets of Fuller’s inventions.

DYMAXION AIR OCEAN WORLD MAP, 1980 (Signed edition of 85). The Dymaxion Air-Ocean World Map designed and patented by Buckminster Fuller is the first in the history of cartography to show the whole surface of the Earth with no visible distortion of the relative size and shape of the land and sea areas and no breaks in the continental contours. 


WATERCRAFT—ROWING NEEDLES: United States Patent Office no.3,524,422, filed March 28,1968, serial no. 716,957, granted August 18, 1970. During his lifetime, only four examples of Fuller’s patent were fabricated. The first two examples had round aluminum hulls. Determining that V-shaped hulls would be more efficient, the final two prototype examples were made with fiberglass hulls. This also further reduced the weight, a primary objective in every Fuller designed structure. Each bow and stern end is socket-assembled in lengths of light aluminum tube. The oarsman sits in a light plastic nacelle and the width can be adjusted to suit. Unique advantage of the catamaran form is stability: lone oarsman can climb back aboard without additional help.


‘MONOHEX’ or ‘Fly’s Eye’ dome: UnitedStates Patent Office no. 3,197,927, filed December 19, 1961, serial no. 160,450, granted August 3, 1965. First patented in 1965 was a method of reducing the structural weight – and thus the cost – of a simple dwelling to the lowest possible level. Fuller developed it in various materials including steel, aluminum, and fiber glass until 1978. Constructed from nestable, single-shape component, when assembled formed a 5/8 geodesic sphere. It represented the last and simplest of all Fuller’s approaches to mass-production low-cost housing. Additionally, 3/4 of the dome’s surface constituted of 7′ diameter circular openings which served as doors, windows, mounts for solar collectors and wind-driven air turbines, etc. All rainwater feeds into the dome’s watercourse cistern system.

Next to original sketches, photographs and the catamaran, Max Protech‘s gallery in New York showed the original Buckminster Fuller Fly’s-Eye dome, which was made of 50 fiberglass sections, weighs a total of 3,500 lbs, is 24ft in height, and is assembled by hand with approximately 1,050 stainless steel bolts.  This prototype was fabricated in California in 1976/77, and is the only 24’ dome Fuller produced. 

monohex-w1The more I get into R. Buckminster Fuller’s work, the more the modern movement of 20th century European architects (like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe) starts looking like a fraction of the radical modern concept envisioned and partially built by Fuller. The two words, ‘Synergy‘ and ‘Design Science‘ stand out, suggesting that there can be still individual feats of design even with the bewildering speed of technological advance which gives a limited shelf-life to even the finest manufactures. This is because scientific and technical development is continuous, and every single design must eventually vacate in favor of something cheaper and better, or become part of another composite element, incorporated into a greater whole.


Please refer to the Galleries for inquiries and prices.
Carl Solway Gallery
424 Findlay Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45214, Tel.+1 513 621 0069

Max Protech
511 W 22nd St, New York, NY 1001, Tel +1 212 633 6999

Sebastian + Barquet
601 W 26th St, New York, NY 10011, Tel +1 212 488 2245

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bill Skillman 07.09.09 at 10:17 pm

claudia…its good your are writing this. I am getting a good education and liking it! I like your perspectives. When’s the nest?

2 Della 10.31.15 at 11:38 am

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