Charlie Stross on Buckminster Fuller: “Why are your houses so heavy?”
The story of why we aren’t all living in Dymaxion houses today is a convoluted epic of business failure (for one thing, starting up a production line for houses using cutting-edge aerospace technology was something that had never been done before; for another, Bucky’s business sense was not, sadly, as good as his design sense) that has been recounted in numerous biographies. What interests me about it is that it’s a far more humane approach to the problem of providing housing for the masses than his Brutalist contemporaries, whose designs tended to be fixed, immovable, made cheaply out of low-end materials, and built with high density mass housing in mind rather than low impact customizability. It was also way ahead of the field in terms of awareness of environmental constraints; while we could design better today, we’d be making incremental tweaks, whereas Bucky came up with the original idea of modular, lightweight, mobile low-impact housing ab initio.
Charlie Stross: “Why are your houses so heavy?”
Green Cities and the Urban Operating System
PlanIT is building a city in Portugal as a test of its “Urban OS” concept, hoping to sell “instant cities” in China and Inida in the future.
“It’s a bit of a bloodbath really,” says Lewis, who began studying it while still at Microsoft. “They’re using techniques older than God. All of the technology is being used on the design end. No one can look into the future and ask ‘If I put better glass into this building, what does that do for energy efficiency down the road?’ You have developers building to do a quick flip, and eventually the building becomes so inefficient and so expensive to fix they have to knock it down. There’s no process and no lifecycle management. The industry is fragmented and the consolidation that’s happened everywhere else hasn’t happened here.”
A Harvard Business School case study (pdf) published earlier this year echoed this view. Despite being a $4.6 trillion global industry, construction firms have had little incentive to integrate, consolidate, or otherwise become more productive. While non-farming industries have made productivity gains averaging 80% since the 1960s, the construction industry has become 20% less productive over that span. “Studies suggested that up to 75% of construction activities typically added no value,” the authors noted.
A City in the Cloud: Living PlanIT Redefines Cities as Software
PlanIT plans to make constructing buildings, and cities, as efficient as manufacturing automobiles.
Buckminster Fuller, thou art avenged.
PlanIT will have competition from open_sailing‘s open source SwarmOS, which open_sailing co-founder Cesar Harrada considers a spiritual successor to The Walking City.
Dymaxion Car Reproduced
The Dymaxion car reconstruction project mentioned here previously has been completed. For better or worse, it was just rebuilt as a one-off art project. Until the end of the month, you’ll be able to see it at the Ivorypress Art+Books gallery in Madrid.
Guardian: Norman Foster’s back-to-front car
Bucky Bar – TAZ made from umbrellas
DUS Architects and the Studio for Unsolicited Architecture offer shelter from the storm with their incredible pop-up Bucky Bar made entirely from umbrellas. Built from orange umbrellas in a very Buckminster-Fullery formation, the bar existed for one short evening, dispensing drinks and DJ downbeats.
Inhabitat: Bucky Bar Built From Umbrellas is a Pop-Up Party
(via Cole Tucker)
Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxian Car Being Restored – And You Can Help!
The Dymaxion Car of R. Buckminster Fuller is being restored by the company Crosthwaite and Gardiner. [...]
Trevor Blake of synchronofile.com has been providing essential research material on the Dymaxion Car to Crosthwaite and Gardiner since February 2009. C&G researcher Phil King wrote: “More and more details are slowly coming out from the archives and from people like yourself, but I must say your information has been the most informative and the most prolific so far. [...] I know I keep saying it but your help has been fantastic and you have made a difference.”
synchronofile.com has been granted the great honor of announcing the restoration of the Dymaxion Car – because our readers are now invited to help in the project. Can you identify the manufacturer for this component?
Synchronofile: Dymaxion Car Restored
Buckminster Fuller and the Homeless of New York
If Buckminster Fuller is known for any effort, it is the effort to provide shelter. But who did Fuller actually provide shelter for? The Lightful House and 4D House existed only on paper. The Dymaxion House existed only as a small scale model. The Dymaxion (Wichita) House existed as two full-scale models (one internal, one external, neither able to be connected to the other). The Dymaxion Deployment Unit did house US armed forces personnel – but the DDU was the invention of Victor C. Norquist, not Buckminster Fuller. The geodesic dome was invented by Walter Bauersfeld who made a number of dome shelters. Fuller never built a dome for sale as a shelter. Of the dozens of books by and about Fuller, of the thousands of articles on his life and work, most of them fail to give a single instance of when Fuller actually provided shelter to anyone. The Buckminster Fuller Bibliography by Trevor Blake is the first book to document that Fuller provided shelter for others with his own direct effort.
The New York Times for 10 September 1932 includes an uncredited article titled “Single Jobless Men to Get Lodging House / Social Worker and Engineer Obtain Use of Tenement for Those Ineligible for City Aid.” The buiding in question was a then-deserted seven-story building located at 145 Ridge Street in New York City, New York. The social worker was Ben Howe and the engineer was Buckminster Fuller. Fuller is described as “editor of the magazine Shelter and head of Structural Study Associates, an engineering firm.” According to the article, the men who were renovating the building were hoping to live in it afterward. They were otherwise ineligible for benefits because they were not the head of a family. The building was to house two hundred and fifty men at a time and serve several thousand during Winter. Lieutenant R. E. Johnson was also involved in this project. He is described as a “former army construction engineer and commander of the United States Ex-Service Men’s Association.” At the time of the article, the shelter was under construction. The building described in this article no longer exists.
Synchronofile: Buckminster Fuller and the Homeless of New York
The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 3 of 3)
The most important information on why the Dymaxion House never went into production can be found on pages 85-114 of Pawley’s Buckminster Fuller. Namely, this was due to Fuller’s “fanatical determination to retain complete personal control of the project and refine the house still further before putting it into production.” Although there were estimates of 250,000 Dymaxion Houses to be produced each year and 37,000 unsolicited orders before production began, the only Dymaxion Houses ever made were incomplete or miniature models. Of all the lost inventions of Buckminster Fuller, this is the one that could have done the most good in the world. The Dymaxion House was just as Fortune magazine described it: the industry that industry missed. [...]
R. Buckminster Fuller described himself as a “terrific package of experiences.” The record of Fuller’s uncredited duplication of prior work suggests that he was at times a terrific package of other people’s experiences.
The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 3 of 3)
The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 2 of 3)
The Morgan Motor Company had been producing three-wheeled vehicles in the USA since 1909. The Burney, produced by Streamline Cars, used aviation design principles as early as 1927. The Chrysler Airflow was a streamline, drag-reducing car of 1934, as was the Tatra T77 of 1935.
The earliest newspaper and magazine articles on the subject tend to favor W. Starling Burgess as the main force behind the Car. The Dymaxion Car is first mentioned in print in the New York Times on 1 June 1933. It is described as the creation of W. S. Burgess. The last sentence of the article reads: “Buckminster Fuller, New York architect and engineer, is associated with Mr. Burgess in the project.” By 22 July the New York Times comes to describe Fuller as the inventor of the Dymaxion Car and Burgess as the designer. The Modern Mechanix of October 1933 lists Burgess and Fuller as the designers of the Car. On 22 October the New York Times described the vehicle as the “streamlined, three-wheeled Gulf-Dymaxion Car, designed by W. Starling Burgess and Buckminster Fuller.” At the time, Gulf Oil had purchased advertising space on the side of the Car. Dymaxion World describes Burgess as “an assistant” in the project.
Full Story: Synchronofile
The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 1 of 3)
Buckminster Fuller sought patents for his works to document in an enduring form what an individual could invent for the betterment of humanity. A primary resource for Fuller’s patents is the book Inventions, the Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller. Inventions serves as the framework for this three-part essay. Comparing the description of Fuller’s work found in that book with this essay will be most instructive. Otherwise uncredited page numbers are from this book. Dates following patent numbers are the date of the patent being granted. Supplementary material comes from The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller and many other sources. Part one of this essay will feature patents found in Inventions that were made by and assigned to Fuller.
All of Fuller’s patents are lost in some way. At minimum, all of Fuller’s patents are lost in that they have expired. Many of Fuller’s patents fail to mention earlier patents by other inventors. Some of Fuller’s patents are lost because they have never gone into production for their intended purpose. The patent for the geodesic dome is to be found under the title “Building Construction,” which has likely caused some researchers difficulty in finding it. Other patents are lost because they are under documented.
Full Story: Synchronofile