BuckyWorks: Buckminster Fuller's Ideas for Today

BuckyWorks: Buckminster Fuller's Ideas for Today

by J. Baldwin

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"Only energy-efficient, resource-efficient design could ‘make the world work for everyone’ for the first time in history. In 1927 Bucky started what he called the Design Science Revolution to bring this about. He set out to show what one ordinary person could do as a design scientist." —from Bucky Works Architect, mathematician, engineer, inventor,


"Only energy-efficient, resource-efficient design could ‘make the world work for everyone’ for the first time in history. In 1927 Bucky started what he called the Design Science Revolution to bring this about. He set out to show what one ordinary person could do as a design scientist." —from Bucky Works Architect, mathematician, engineer, inventor, visionary humanist, educator, inspirational orator, and bestselling author, R. Buckminster Fuller has been rightly called "the 20th-century Leonardo da Vinci." Over the course of his long life, Fuller was showered with official honors (including forty-seven honorary degrees) for his contributions to design science as well as his pioneering work in the "whole systems" approach to solving global problems. But he is probably best remembered for his futuristic inventions—most notably, the geodesic dome, the strongest, most cost-effective structure ever devised. Since his death in 1983, appreciation for Fuller’s ideas has grown steadily worldwide, culminating in 1995—the year of his centenary—with an unprecedented series of tributes and commemorative events, including the opening of the Fuller Institute in Santa Barbara, demonstrations of World Game®, and a proliferation of Internet conferences and Web sites. Written by a fellow inventor who worked with Fuller for more than three decades, Bucky Works: Buckminster Fuller’s Ideas for Today is a celebration of the man and his ideas. More than just a biographical account or a historical treatise, it is a thought-provoking consideration of the importance of the Fuller legacy to our future and an inspiring synthesis of Fuller’s major ideas and inventions. As one of Fuller’s best-known disciples (or "artifacts," as he refers to himself), J. Baldwin encourages readers from all walks of life to share Fuller’s unique, life-affirming vision of science and technology and to find new ways of applying Fuller’s concepts and designs to solving today’s problems and building a better future for all mankind. Combining a compelling narrative account with more than 200 photographs and drawings, many previously unpublished, and dozens of revealing excerpts from his lectures and his conversations with the author, Bucky Works will be among the most important tributes to the Fuller legacy to appear this year and for many years to come.

Editorial Reviews

Philip Leggiere

"Buckminster Fuller was the last American thinker to really believe in the future," observed architect Philip Johnson after Fuller's death in 1983. Which may account for the anomalous position the charismatic utopian futurist holds at the fin de siècle. Technology we surely have -- as cyber-cultural commodity fetish or nightmare ecological and social nemesis -- but in an era of postmodernist pessimism, Fuller's trademark technological humanism appears almost an oxymoron, more quaint than relevant. Fuller, to be sure, is fondly remembered, but seldom read and even more seldom considered terribly salient to business and politics as usual.

In this context, J. Baldwin's BuckyWorks comes as a pleasant surprise. Eschewing the twin biographical temptations of hagiography and cynicism, Baldwin, a former student of Fuller's and editor of the Whole Earth Catalogue, succeeds (no mean achievement) in making Fuller unsafe for intellectual nostalgia.

Baldwin concentrates primarily on Fuller as inventor, the occasionally successful (or, more often, ahead of his time) entrepreneur and maverick engineer of the visionary. He sketches, in extensive detail, high points of 60-plus years of design, ranging in focus from the cosmos to, literally (with Fuller's energy efficient "Packaging Toilet"), the commode. Included are discussions (complete with illustrations, diagrams and photos) of Fuller's major projects -- the Dymaxion House and Dormitory, Dymaxion Car, Geodesic Domes and Fuller's Synergetic-Energetic System of Geometry -- as well as marginalia and humorous curiosities such as the "Steak-Prune and Jello" diet Fuller followed and his pioneering of the "power nap".

As a historian of design and technology, Baldwin presents Fuller's schemes warts and all, unflinchingly describing the leaks which plagued Fuller's domes, the poor insulation in the Dymaxion home prototype and the erratic back steering system of his three-wheeled Dymaxion Car. However, far from seeing these as merely eccentric dead ends or esoteric museum pieces, Baldwin persuasively makes the case that Fuller's prophetic forays into ecologically sustainable alternative technology (and the vision of post-scarcity abundance which inspired them) are likely to become ever more influential and relevant as we enter a new century. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A useful, informal introduction to visionary engineer Buckminster Fuller's ideas, discoveries and inventions, this survey is illustrated with some 200 photographs, drawings and plans that help demonstrate how Fuller nurtured concepts from paper napkin to finished gizmo. Baldwin, an editor of Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review, is an inventor who worked closely with Fuller (1895-1983) and who has designed and built experimental domes. Along with Fuller inventions and blueprints such as the aluminum, aerodynamically modeled Dymaxion car, the geodesic dome, "Lightful House" 12-deck residential towers and energy-efficient corrugated cottages with silo tops, Baldwin explains synergetics, Fuller's system purporting to describe the coordinates and energy flow of the universe. He also discusses the World Game Institute, founded by Fuller in 1972, which conducts workshops demonstrating how a small fraction of the world's military expenditures could be redeployed to eliminate starvation and malnutrition, stabilize the population and provide clean, safe energy. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Architect, mathematician, engineer, inventor, educator, and more, Buckminster Fuller was twice kicked out of Harvard. Eventually, he joined the navy, which appealed to his sense of organization and interest in engineering and invention. Baldwin met Fuller at the University of Michigan while a freshman design student and studied and worked with him for the next 30 years. His book, which reflects its subject's eclectic nature, tries to capture both the breadth and depth of Fuller's ideas and creations. Photographs of the early prototypes are intriguing, and Baldwin's comments that many of Fuller's engineering concepts are just now becoming viable due to the development of appropriate construction materials shows us how far ahead of his time Fuller was. The structure of this book is somewhat unclear, but the content is always fascinating. For popular science collections.-Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.

Product Details

Publication date:
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8.30(w) x 9.54(h) x 0.85(d)

Meet the Author

J. BALDWIN is an inventor and teach-er who worked under, with, and for R. Buckminster Fuller for more than three decades. He served as an editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and the Whole Earth Review for 25 years. Baldwin recently led the team that disassembled Fuller's 1945 Wichita Dymaxion House for use in a display at the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

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