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Spotlight: Ar. Bukminster Fuller; A flashback of Fuller’s inventions

Home Architecture Spotlight: Ar. Bukminster Fuller; A flashback of Fuller's inventions
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Sudarshan Uppunda
Apart from being an Architect, Sudarshan has a flair for writing, manages a family business, and is trying his hand at UX Design as well. He likes to write and explore varied topics on Culture, Architecture, and Workplace environments. He is quite active in architectural journalism and has written for various platforms like RTF and The Arch Insider. He strongly believes that whatever one does in life, one must do it with passion & be happy with it.

Architect Buckminster Fuller is like a pillar to the realm of architecture. He is the one that led to the union of architecture and technology. Fuller was not just an architect, he is also known as an author, designer, and inventor. Born in 1927 in the United States he studied at Milton Academy at Massachusetts initially and later at The Harvard University. His works showcase the art of problem-solving. His design focused on solving issues in the fields of housing, shelter, transportation and energy. Moreover, he also has a lot of philanthropic contributions in the fields of education, Poverty and ecology through design. Hence, Fuller is a known name in the genres of  Architecture, Engineering, Science and Cartography.

Buckminster Fuller & his ideologies

Buckminster Fuller had a prime focus on designs being effective and low cost. His design goal was to achieve efficiency with the most basic of the resources. His concepts can be closely associated with the phenomenon of Ephemeralization. Ephemeralization deals with doing ‘more’ with ‘less’. Furthermore, he also coined the term ‘Dymaxion’ which is a combination of three aspects, namely Dynamic, Maximum and Tension. Fuller had developed the prototype housing scheme based on this principle.

The concept of Buckminster Fuller’s structures were usually to solve human and environmental issues. With these intentions, he had invented structural and design systems. These systems were designed to cater to global issues. His designs brought in a prototyping culture. His designs could be factory produced on a large scale, barring a few contextual changes. His designs were flexible enough to be mass-produced and airlifted to the locations. Therefore, this imparted a modern as well as industrial profile to architectural design.

Inventions of Buckminster Fuller

The Dymaxion House

Architect Buckminster Fuller next to a model of his Dymaxion house.

The Dymaxion House

The Dymaxion House was built in the year 1930 and is one of the famous examples of Fuller’s prototype design. This was the first instance ever in architecture, to develop an autonomous building. This was a single stainless steel strut and as supported on a single central foundation system. The origin of this Dymaxion House can be referred back to the idea of mass-production. The initial idea was to mass-produce a bathroom and house. Fuller had designed this prototype to withstand in the stormy areas, oceanic islands and the Great Plains of North America.

The Dymaxion House had provision for greywater systems to reuse water. This shows how progressive were Fuller’s designs as well as thoughts even then. It is also known that the showers were replaced with a fogger system to conserve water. This shows Fuller’s sustainable ideologies.

The Geodesic Dome

Dome Home- First Geodesic Dome by Buckminster Fuller at Woods Hole

Biosphere – Geodesic Dome by Fuller at Montreal

One of the famous inventions by BuckminsterFuller is The Geodesic dome. It is a part of the geodesic sphere and considered as the most efficient structural systems. Geodesic domes are structural enclosures with large spans and help in achieving a column less space. The concept of  ‘More from Less’ is behind the formulation of The Geodesic Dome. With this concept, efficient interior spaces can be designed with a very less structural area. Further, this also meant conservation of resources as well as the cost of construction.

The triangular smaller structural systems form the Geodesic Dome. It is also known to regulate interior temperature and aid in natural ventilation. HFuller’s ideology of sustainable and energy-efficient design is very well evident from the design of the Geodesic Domes.

The Dymaxion Car

The Dymaxion Car by Fuller

Interiors of The Dymaxion Car

The Dymaxion Car by Buckminster Fuller was a worth mentioning invention. It was designed in aluminium sheet body with ash frame. The Dymaxion Car was also termed as 4D Auto transport.  Therefore, The Dymaxion Car too was based on the concept of ‘Dymaxion’.This had an aerodynamic bodywork and was known to have an enhanced fuel efficiency. It was best known as a ‘land-sea-air’ vehicle.

The Dymaxion Car indeed had certain limitations. The provisions for handling the wind speed and other technical aspects were not developed completely. But in those times, landing and movement of an automated vehicle on hard ground was a challenging affair.  Despite this, Fuller was able to develop such a path-breaking invention.

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