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Article: More Fuller, please!

Who is Fuller, Buckminster Fuller? You don t remember, never heard about him? - What a pity

Michael Bockhorst

My first contact with the name "Fuller" was the Fullerene or Bucky Ball, a molecule which consists of 60 carbon atoms. It has the same shape as a socker ball, it is made of hexagons and pentagons in a sphere-like surface. But what has this to do with the whole work of Richard Buckminster Fuller? It is one little piece of the giant puzzle of his lifelong work.

Fuller has not only given a name to a special configuration of 60 carbon atoms, he has invented a possible future. A future with tools -- cars, dwellings, verical green houses, etc. -- which might help the human society to find a better life for most people. Some of his inventions seem very arbitrary, nearly useless. But, after working with his insights he opens new perspectives, a whole new view of our world. And what the future might be.

As a german inhabitant I am used to see a large europe above an african continent which has about the same area. This view is wrong: Africa is much larger than central europe. Just the projection of a sphere into a flat map changes the relative sizes depending on the latitude. Fuller developed the dymaxion projection. The globe is intersected at the equator into two semi spheres which are intersected into 8 pieces. These pieces have a triangular shape and are flattened. After this procedure you cannot fill a rectangle with a map of our planet -- but you can find several configurations which make sense. On the one hand you create a öne ocean" view by putting the ßea-triangles" together and group the land around them. On the other hand you can create a öne continent" view by putting the "land triangles" together.

Now you have different maps which distort our planet only on a minor scale and show different perspectives. What for? One example: If you want to use photovoltaic power 24h a day you have to store it or you establish a global grid to earn power from photovoltaics continuosly and to distribute it to the consumers. Always the same answer: A transatlantic power cable is impossible. Might be -- but Fuller has shown many decades ago that there is a much easier way: A power grid which is connected by a 100 mile long cable between siberia and alaska. The "land centered" dymaxion projection shows that solution at the first glimpse -- a globe doesnt, neither any kind of a typical map.

Or the Dymaxion Home. Fuller calulated the weight of a typical house including all the installations to 150 tons! His conclusion: A house of such a weight needs a vast amount of ressources -- not only the building of house itself but also the production of its components. He tried to find a way to build a house with a weight of only about 3 Tons, 1/50th of the weight of a typical house. This resulted in the Dymaxion Home. Fuller used the same techniques which emerged from the aircraft industries. Aluminum, Plexiglas, thermal insulation and designed the house to maximize comfort and to minimize ressource consumption. This happened in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Perhaps one of the most needed solutions to fight the upcoming energy crisis slept 5 decades!

Both examples are only two pieces of the puzzle of Fullers work which consists of hundreds or thousends of parts. To dig deeper

  • Go to the web site of the Buckminster Fuller Insitute or
  • buy a copy of "Buckminster Fuller: CRITICAL PATH", published by Griffin (ISBN: 0312174918), read it and are inspired.
You will find out that we need much more of Fullers insight in todays "modern" society!