The myth of the American Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was spawned from a tragedy. Coming from a family of builders in Massachusetts, expelled twice from Harvard University, he ended up enlisting in the navy, an environment where he could acquire knowledge of the most diverse fields. After the failure of a project to sell manufactured homes and, worse still, the death of his daughter at the age of four, with the course of his life lost, that young man directed his steps towards Lake Michigan with the intention of taking his own life so that your family could collect the insurance. There and then, in 1927, he had a revelation that would transform the course of his career and the perception we have of the world today: suddenly, he understood that his life did not belong to him, but to the universe. From that enlightenment a question arose: “What could an individual like him, someone without special abilities, do to improve the existence of all humanity?” And a commitment that would cement his path: to become himself an experiment.
What followed were decades of tireless and surprising innovation, a torrent of designs, proposals and ideas that, despite the fact that many times they were never realized, have ended up having an indisputable influence on the shaping of 21st century thinking. With more than 200 pieces including documents, videos, sculptures and models, the exhibition Radical curiosity. In Buckminster Fuller’s orbit (Espacio Fundación Telefónica de Madrid) reviews the achievements of the designer, architect, engineer, teacher, poet and philosopher who invented the concept of synergy and created designs such as the geodesic dome. Bucky, as he was known, was a figure who wandered freely on the broad spectrum between science and transcendentalism, between metaphysics and mathematics, to reimagine concepts related to fields such as housing, transportation and education from radicalism. education with a holistic and inclusive perspective.
“He dynamites the distances between disciplines”, points out José Luis de Vicente, who together with Rosa Pera has curated the exhibition, open until March 14, 2021. “There are two opposing views of Fuller. One, that he was a visionary utopian but failed; and another, the one that prevails in our days and is the reason for the exhibition: the one that enabled a new way of thinking, a systemic perspective in which patches are not worth changing the world, but an overall vision. And the impact of his legacy has been enormous: for example, the Fullerene carbon molecule was named after him because he predicted the existence of that form. [que es la misma que la de la cúpula geodésica] before its discovery ”.
Many of the novel concepts that this hyperactive polymath used, who went around the world 30 times from conference to conference, today sound like everyday news. But in their time they were far from it. His aerodynamic car, his experiments with shapes based on nature’s patterns like those woven by silkworms, his octahedral houses designed to be built on the sea or his dome project to cover all of Manhattan and improve air quality were all visions. that did not work but whose background is explored today through fields such as metroengineering, a discipline that seeks to make cities more livable places. “One of its key concepts is that of synergy,” says Pera. “He believed that the world was a synergy of synergies, connected with the universe.”
Another term that the inventor coined was “tensegrity.” If there was a balance between the stressed parts of a whole, its integrity would be fostered. It is the creative base of the geodesic dome, without a doubt its best known proposal, a self-supporting structure capable of covering the maximum space with the minimum amount of material, of which there are hundreds of thousands of replicas all over the planet, many of its own construction. . “It is the sixties, Fuller acted as a bridge between the world of horse racing and that of research, paving the way for what is now Silicon Valley,” the curator abounds, stressing that his vision of the need to access and represent the information about the world and its configuration, which for the most part is alien to our senses, has given rise to logic such as that of big data or artificial intelligence.
Teacher of Black Mountain College, a university where John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Walter Gropius also taught from Joseph Albers, Fuller collaborated with a constellation of intellectuals, scientists and architects such as Norman Foster, whose study is now trying to complete a project that both began decades ago: a house of maximum energy efficiency that rotates with the sun. “Today there is no Buckminster Fuller of the 21st century, but his influence has been split in many dimensions”, says the commissioner. From architects like Neri Oxman and the Spanish Andrés Jaque to artists like Olafur Eliasson, who draws on his conception of geometric shapes. “In the first waves of Silicon Valley, his figure produced fascination”, adds De Vicente, “and his weight is undeniable in characters like Steve Jobs.”