Buckminster Fuller's Challenge

Design Learning Challenge Author
Garreth Heidt
English Teacher, Perkiomen Valley High School

R. Buckminster Fuller's Extraordinary Challenge
Insightful snippet from The Huffington Post, Apr 29 2014

"After numerous failures at Harvard (expelled twice) and also in his work, Bucky set his mind on the idea that through science, technology, and design, we could make the world better for all people. This particular idealistic, humanitarian philosophy underpinned the rest of his life’s work and was most succinctly stated as: 'To make the world work, for 100 percent of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.'" (Freund)

Freund, Pablo. "Buckminster Fuller: What Can You Do?" The Huffington Post 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.

News Clips of the Dymaxion House

Snippets from an article posted on American Masters, PBS series, Dec 12, 2001; and New York Times

“Making the world’s available resources serve one hundred percent of an exploding population can only be accomplished by a boldly accelerated design revolution.”

There are few men who can justly claim to have revolutionized their discipline. R. Buckminster Fuller revolutionized many. “Bucky,” was a designer, architect, poet, educator, engineer, philosopher, environmentalist, and, above all, humanitarian. Driven by the belief that humanity’s major problems were hunger and homelessness he dedicated his life to solving those problems through inexpensive and efficient design.

Bucky was born on July 12, 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts. He was twice expelled from Harvard. Later, Bucky married Anne Hewlett in 1917 and went into the construction business with her father. A decade later he witnessed the first of many business failures, when, due to economic difficulties, he was forced out of the company. Despondent over these failures and family problems, he resolved to focus his energies on a search for socially responsible answers to the major design problems of his time.

Recognizing the inefficiency of the automobile, Bucky spent the late twenties designing a car that would incorporate the engineering advances of the airplane. In 1933, he presented the first prototype of the Dymaxion car. The Dymaxion car could hold twelve passengers, go 120 miles per hour and used half the gas of the standard car, utilizing aerodynamics construction and only three wheels. While demonstrating the car to investors, it crashed, taking one life. Though the crash was later determined not to be the fault of the car, he was never able to find adequate funding.

As World War II ended and housing crises in America became more acute, he turned his sights to what would remain his life-long dream. Using airplane construction methods and materials, Bucky set out to create a pre-fabricated house that could be easily delivered to any location. It would be fireproof and inexpensive and constructed out of light weight materials. 

“Despite the widespread publicity, or perhaps because of it, conflicts arose among the financial backers of the project. Most wanted to move ahead and start production immediately. Fuller, then 50 years old, had endured two business failures, and, on the brink of success, he turned uncharacteristically cautious. He demanded more time for research and development, and resisted all the efforts of stockholders, friends and supporters to put the Dymaxion House on the market. In the end, the delays and wrangling proved fatal. Lacking the $10 million required to tool up for production, Fuller Houses collapsed.”  (Rybczynski)

American Masters. PBS  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/r-buckminster-fuller/about-r-buckminster-fuller/599/.

Rybczynski, Witold. "A Little House on the Prarie Goes to A Museum." New York Times 19 Apr. 1992. Web. 24 Aug. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/04/19/arts/architecture-view-a-little-house-on-the-prairie-goes-to-a-museum.html.

Additional Reference Materials

Additional Video References

“Reflections: R. Buckminster Fuller”  

“Segment from CBS Sunday Morning”

“Segment for Museum Mysteries”