Pioneering radical Richard Buckminster “Bucky” 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.”
Born in Massachusetts, Fuller’s talents for invention became clear during his early childhood, building his own tools and creating a new method of propelling rowing boats with an umbrella when he was 12. Building on this knowledge to attend Harvard University, Fuller was expelled not once, but twice: once for spending all his money on partying with a Vaudeville troupe and again after being re-admitted for his seeming lack of interest and non-conformity. He eventually earned a machinist’s certificate while working in Canada, gaining an intimate knowledge of material properties and tools that would later influence his radical architecture.
Never confined to a single profession, Fuller worked as a “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist” to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty. In his prolific career, Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books and received 47 honorary degrees. Best known for the geodesic dome, (which has been reproduced over 300,000 times worldwide) Fuller popularized the structure after its invention by Dr Walther Bauersfeld 30 years before, gaining the US patent and erecting models across the United States. As his career progressed, Fuller received increasing attention from the world (and also from the FBI), and his work culminated in the incredible Montreal Biosphere at the 1967 Exposition.
As a well-known futurist, Fuller fought for innovative solutions to humanity’s problems, becoming an early pioneer of sustainable design and renewable energy and participated in the first United Nations forum on human settlement, Habitat 1. And of course, he carried on creating a huge range of incredible designs and projects, including the three-wheeled Dymaxion Car and the grain-silo-inspired Dymaxion House.
Learn more about Bucky via the links and videos below, including a video of him singing his own original “ode to a dome” which features the playful yet critical line:
Let Architects dream of glass boxes with steam
And rich clients in hordes at their knees
Just give me a home in a great circle dome
Where the birds and bees are at ease.