Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Bucky Fuller Retrospective

In Dymaxion Man Elizabeth Kolbert discusses the life of Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller. Prompted by a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art which opens later this month.

One of Buckminster Fuller’s earliest inventions was a car shaped like a blimp. The car had three wheels—two up front, one in the back—and a periscope instead of a rear window. Owing to its unusual design, it could be maneuvered into a parking space nose first and could execute a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn so tightly that it would end up practically where it had started, facing the opposite direction. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the car was introduced in the summer of 1933, it caused such a sensation that gridlock followed, and anxious drivers implored Fuller to keep it off the streets at rush hour.

Fuller called his invention the Dymaxion Vehicle. He believed that it would not just revolutionize automaking but help bring about a wholesale reordering of modern life. Soon, Fuller thought, people would be living in standardized, prefabricated dwellings, and this, in turn, would allow them to occupy regions previously considered uninhabitable—the Arctic, the Sahara, the tops of mountains. The Dymaxion Vehicle would carry them to their new homes; it would be capable of travelling on the roughest roads and—once the technology for the requisite engines had been worked out—it would also (somehow) be able to fly. Fuller envisioned the Dymaxion taking off almost vertically, like a duck.

Fuller’s schemes often had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals). It concerned him not in the least that things had always been done a certain way in the past. In addition to flying cars, he imagined mass-produced bathrooms that could be installed like refrigerators; underwater settlements that would be restocked by submarine; and floating communities that, along with all their inhabitants, would hover among the clouds. Most famously, he dreamed up the geodesic dome.
I have been a big fan of Bucky's ever since my geodesic dome days. I think I built my first one in 1969. It was a great party.

Bucky was famous for being able to tell the future by looking at a graph of trends. A kind of Moore's Law guy before Moore's Law. In many ways he was a Leonardo DaVinci with a shorter time lag.

Have a read.

H/T Alan Boyle

Cross Posted at Classical Values

1 comment:

ZenDraken said...

Nothing against Bucky Fuller, but as a pilot, I look at the Dymaxion car and see a wingless taildragger airplane.
Taildraggers are fine, but if you're not all over the rudder on takeoff or landing, they will ground-loop on you. Basically, they exhibit the essence of stability: the heavy part (the tail) wants to go first.

I would imagine accelerating around a corner in a Dymaxion could be disastrous. I'm curious how well this car handled at highway speeds.