Article by Curt McNamara, courtesy of MCAD
Suddenly Bucky is everywhere. The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, a show at the Whitney, books evaluating his work, and an overview in Wired. What is going on?
The time is ripe for his ideas. Sustainable design was a new concept when he started in the 1930's, and even by the 1970's it was part of the creative edge rather than the mainstream. Bucky famously said that he worked 50 years ahead of his time. In that way he didn't experience a reaction against changing the present.
We live in a reputation economy
If the time is right, what are we to make of him and his work?
Are we ready for mass-produced recyclable housing?
Can we really design to ensure success for everyone?
What are the deep principles underlying his designs?
Student work by Vinit Jain
There are his designs, commitment to integrity, life-long goal of success for all humanity, universal principles, and the realization that Universe is endlessly regenerative. His designs include high efficiency cars, low flow showerheads, and houses with high performance. He emphasized that "Only Integrity Is Going To Count" and saw what the world is realizing now: we live in a reputation economy.
Bucky taught that universal or generalized principles are true everywhere and every-when. They include not just the laws of physics but also the laws of relationships, and how the Universe consists of both physical and metaphysical.Fuller's work reveals deep principles:
1) The world is not cubical. Use just enough and start the design from the inside out.
»Forces never cancel in Universe, there is always excess energy.
2) Excess energy is how systems couple together.
»Minimal design uses coupled forces in tension and compression (tensegrity).
3) This idea can be seen from bridges to graphic designs.
»Align with the forces of Universe by knowing nature's coordinate system
4) There is no up and down, rather in and out.
»We can orbit, precess, fall in, or radiate from the center.
Nature designs in a structured framework
As Bucky said, nature doesn't calculate pi when she forms a bubble! The forces of nature are relations: they exist between the parts yet not in them. There are universal shapes that occur at all levels of scale. Design can save the world. Bucky realized that, and gradually we are coming to the same realization. Such designs are centered on needs, suited to the future while respecting the present, and enable individuals. They are tools aligned with universal forces.
As Bucky Fuller said, "nature is endlessly regenerative."
Curt McNamara will teach a new, 10-week course at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) about Buckminster Fuller called Geometry of Thinking that is offered fully online from May 29-August 6, 2012. Registration is open! This course is part of MCAD's newly launched MA in Sustainable Design.
Read an interview with Curt about his new course.
Curt McNamara is an educator and practicing designer with 20 years experience. He is a scholar of R. Buckminster Fuller and authored the entry on Fuller in the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Curt received the IEEE Millennium Medal in 2000 for his ongoing work in education, is a Biomimicry Education Fellow, and wrote the Systems Chapters in "Sustainable Graphic Design" (Wiley) and "Packaging Sustainability" (Wiley).