R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER (1895-1983)
Probably not just me, but most –if not all –architecture students were instantly captivated by the geodesic dome at first sight. Perhaps, discovering Fuller was one of the highlights of HOA (History of Architecture) classes. Right?
Let me refresh your memories. And to non-architects, pay attention –this is worth it!
Fuller was not only an architect. He was a polymath –an engineer, philosopher, poet, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and a futurist, among others! He was hailed as “one of the greatest minds of our times,” for so many reasons! But I would say, the ultimate reason was because in his every pursuit, the aim was always to make the world absolutely suitable for humankind. Before “sustainable development” or “sustainability” were the trend, he was already up to innovative design solutions to create technology that does “more with less”.
He was best known for developing the geodesic dome—the only large dome that can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure and the only practical kind of building that has no limiting dimensions (i.e., beyond which the structural strength must be insufficient). Among the most noteworthy geodesic domes is the United States pavilion for Expo 67 in Montreal. (featured image)
But besides this astonishing “artifact” (he demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts”), Fuller was also noted for his unorthodox ideas on global issues. He was a man who was not afraid to be different. He was not just another visionary who fought against traditional mindsets, but he was also (at least for me) the most profound. He strongly believed the moment one decides to pursue what she really wants –it becomes a “different kind of life.”
The genius of Fuller was not simply another “freak of nature”. He was extraordinary because of his extraordinary experiences which included common life struggles and profound sufferings. Despite his one-of-a-kind achievements, there are things about the life of Fuller that are still relatable. For a significant time, he was jobless and without any financial savings while raising a family. This was year 1927 and he was 32. But the worst for him –a pivotal experience –was the death of his young daughter. His financial troubles and this tragedy pushed him to fall into the abyss of depression. It was severe enough for him to contemplate suicide. To add, he reflected upon the resolution to his problems on long walks around Chicago while drinking heavily. If this is not relatable, I don’t know what else to call it.
His dark and fierce bout with depression led him to an epiphany –I could easily say that this is one of his greatest gifts to this world –for all of us –as much as his ingenious inventions! He recounted that a voice spoke directly to him, 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 the 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.”[i]
As I read this epiphany if the body gets the goosebumps, I feel a very similar sensation, but I felt it in my soul. I do not have a word for it. Well, for one, I have said or better yet, I have heard the same thing from a certain voice too as Fuller have 94 years ago.
There is so much more about Fuller, than I can sum in one caption. I mean, the man was extraordinarily articulate. He authored 28 books! I will talk about him more some time, but for now, let me end with this quote that I absolutely adore:
Dare to be naïve.– R. Buckminster Fuller
[i] Sieden, Lloyd Steven (1989). Buckminster Fuller’s Universe: His Life and Work. Basic Books. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-0-7382-0379-9.