Layout Revolutionary: Buckminster Fuller at SFMOMA

There’s really no good only word. He had been an architect, an engineer, an author, a designer, a philosopher and much more. Considered among the last great American inventors, Fuller is credited with influencing many theories in contemporary structure — such as prefabricated home, eco friendly substances and residing in a smaller footprint.

A new exhibit opening on March 31, 2012, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art celebrates Fuller’s work. Titled”The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area,” it includes 65 of Fuller’s works, such as prints, drawings, photos, documentary movie, publications, models and ephemera of his most iconic projects. These pieces are featured alongside the work of famous Bay Area designers which were motivated by his or her philosophies.

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Many of the things in the display are part of a portfolio which Fuller put together late in life, including 13 layouts to be sent to art collectors. Since his death, many artists, scientists and architects have started to see this portfolio as a group of layouts and more as a manifesto for a way of life.

The portfolio, branded”Inventions: Twelve Around One,” includes the 4D House, a hexagonal structure intended to be resource efficient and mass generated from factory-made kits. Like a prefab home, it was developed to be shipped anywhere for a low cost and quickly assembled onsite.


Fuller developed the idea of”tensegrity” (a mix of the words tension and integrity) as a solution for easy, mobile dwellings for people in the 1970s. It revolutionized the tent design business: The North Face first used it in 1976, tent designers quickly caught on, and the outcome was a massive shift from the stalls of the past to the tents we utilize today.


The geodesic dome (believe Epcot at Walt Disney World) is one of Fuller’s most famous patented designs. The dome, composed of numerous triangles, is a lightweight structure which can support an incredible amount of weight. It’s also inexpensive and ecofriendly.

Whilst infrequently used in residences, geodesic domes have emerged in military radar stations, civic buildings and exhibitions.


A huge part of the exhibit focuses on Fuller’s widespread influence on Bay Area culture and design. Fuller’s ideals of ecological friendliness, social responsibility and improved living conditions are said to have greatly influenced San Francisco’s alternative civilization. The Federal Building in San Francisco, designed by Morphosis Architects, was immediately inspired by Fuller’s work.


Fuller considered solutions to get a day when our territory might no longer be inhabitable. The famous Dymaxion house above is one of his designs for ocean-residing homes. It was designed to decrease water usage through a water filtration system plus a”fogger” that would replace showers using smaller water particles.

Of course, Fuller’s thoughts still continue to operate their way throughout the design world today. Producing the strongest and best structure with the smallest quantity of stuff was an idea often picked up on by famous contemporary architects, including Norman Foster. And it’s especially relevant today as architects believe the impacts of using specific resources, building cheap but quality constructions, and residing in small but practical spaces.

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