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MPR’s Connie Goldman reports on design science exhibit of Buckminster Fuller's eco-friendly architectural story. Report includes interviews with Fuller, and with people viewing the exhibit.

This recording was made available through a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.


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CONNIE GOLDMAN: The design science of R. Buckminster Fuller is made up of full scale exhibit structures as well as models and graphic displays explaining Fuller's concepts that have been developed during the 77-year-old innovator's wide-ranging career. I expected to be awed and confused by Dymaxion houses and automobiles, geodesic domes, tensegrity structures, and more recent conceptual ideas such as the world game. But understanding of the technicalities is not imperative to knowing what this universally acclaimed visionary and prophet is about. At least, that's what some of the early morning viewers said.

SPEAKER 1: The principles that he has espoused are a little bit complicated. But when you look at them and see what he's talking about, they're explained quite readily. What's hard to understand is why people don't accept these ideas.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: Did you expect this exhibit to be more complicated and that you'd have a harder time understanding things than you are?

SPEAKER 2: No. I am charmed by the fact that the comments are simple, easy to follow, that they tell us a great deal. They clarify things for me.

SPEAKER 3: It's really remarkable that there can be so many such a variety of different ideas and different ways of doing things. And yet, there is such a barrier against these new ideas that ones that need to be accepted right now probably won't be accepted for 100 years.

SPEAKER 4: I think what he's saying about people needing to accept a different world view is a simple thing to understand.

SPEAKER 5: People have to change their imaginative picture of the world before they can understand him. They can't think only in terms of their local area where they're living. They have to start thinking in terms of the world, in order to understand him. Otherwise, he's just incomprehensible.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: Years before the recent widespread ecological concern, Fuller's attention turned to the environment. His many plans fit into what he calls comprehensive anticipatory design science. One plan is a city under an umbrella glass roof, a city of controlled environment and unique use of resources for 50,000 families. The plan was commissioned by the city of St Louis. Fuller explains some of his thinking as we viewed the scale model.

R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: Asked me to come and help them designing something that would really be suitable for them. They found that the kind of housing being provided by federal grants and so forth did not work with that kind of community life at all. So I did design something which they-- I said they would not go ahead with it, unless you fall in love with the idea because it mustn't be a political football.

And we must design this for human beings and not how do you make money, for instance. And not how to make money out of building or real estate, it must be strictly how do we make design for human beings. And in relation to the sense of community, I'll tell you what this is. If you get down low, you'll see that in profile, it's got a confirmation of a moon crater inside there, below this umbrella. There's a moon crater up like this, and then sound like that.

All the inside are terraces, and there are terraces outside. It's 50 terraces high, each terrace being what we'd call a storey in a building. And it will house 50,000 families. And inside the moon crater, going around like that is all the circumferential highway systems, all the industrial projects, and so forth. This is one mile from here to here and one half mile from the top rim of the crater to the other side. You would look and see there's a football stadium in there. You can see it down and get a little sense of scale of its relative size.

Now then, on the inside, there are bridge ways between the inside and the outside. So you can walk across from inside to outside. All community life is on the inside. You're all under one umbrella, so there's no roof. And you see trees planted around on the terraces ways. Inside, you then see maybe a school, kids going to school over here, down there in this terrace over here. And you could look, maybe take glasses to see because it's quite a little way over there. But you can see all the community life going on.

And then you go outside, and all the homes are on the outside terraces, facing outwardly, with trees around you so that you just look outwardly, you can't see the people next to you. So you feel absolutely private in the outside. And inside, you really feel community. And that's where the community really felt they needed to have a sense of organization. So all the industrial activity are utterly hidden, but build was confidential everything.

The waters are all caught from the roof. You have one common umbrella roof. And the thermal controls are very, very high. This would be safety glass mounted in an aluminum frame, this total frame. With calculation all completed, this thing is completely practical. And it's economics of operation are just phenomenally low. So that you find that you get to really live out in the open in this garden terraces, under just one umbrella.

And if you're living in this outer terrace, you'd notice then the umbrella is as high as the top terrace. So you look out, absolutely seemingly clear. But yet, it really controls the environment completely. So that I'm quite confident that this kind of a solution for living will be a very practical matter.

And that possibility because I've been on the Minnesota Experimental City Steering Committee for so many years. And they were expecting me to do the designing of their building, but we never showed what I was going to build. But this is just exactly the way I would do that. And I think that the communities of Minnesota begin to find out this is what they're talking about. They might really find this very, very acceptable.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: Fuller believes that mankind so far has never attempted, in full consciousness, to take its collective destiny into its hands and share it under the threat of extinction. This is what his world game theory deals with.

R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: About one third of humanity is as yet have not. And we have to really up the performance that would really take care of all of humanity, those high standards. So world game is a way of studying where are the resources, where are the people, what are their needs? How, by a design science revolution such as way I'm showing you, doing more with less here, can you then take care of all the tasks of looking out for all those people in very economical ways?

So that would be whether you're looking at the Old Man River City Project, or you're looking at the individual deployed home for the country, or the whole city to be come into place overnight. All those things are now fine, are actually absolutely feasible. And I've actually done all those tasks, so I know what I'm talking about. But I had to also then develop this kind of map.

All this kind of thinking requires that you do treat with the total data of universe, and the mathematics, and so forth, able to really see and integrate all those potentials. So that's what this show, it really is manifesting the different facets you have to inquire into in order to be effective, be competent.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: R. Buckminster Fuller has been called a man for all seasons, a world citizen, and a Renaissance man. The exhibition is an attempt to capture the spirit of this man who has done so much to awaken our aesthetic, functional, and humanistic sensibilities. This is Connie Goldman, at the Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis.

SPEAKER 6: He does have some pretty wild ideas.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: You think maybe that design community is a little too complicated for you. Would you rather simplify? Or do you think maybe he really is simplifying?

SPEAKER 6: I think he is. It's basic. It's very basic. I myself, I'd just as soon live in the country, in a log cabin.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: Why do you think society is so slow in accepting the practicality of some of his ideas?

SPEAKER 7: Well, Fuller says that he does not want to use politics to bring these changes about. And I think that's the main reason. I mean, human society is just based on politics.

CONNIE GOLDMAN: Can I ask you one more quick question? About his plan communities, like the Saint Louis one over there, why do you suppose people are so resistant to the idea of that kind of a contrived community?

SPEAKER 8: I think people are always resistant to something new. And I think Bucky's always in trouble because he's about 300 years ahead of his time. I agree with him heartily when he points out that we are very stupid when we expect politics, politicians, government to solve our problems. We can't do it that way. And I think we have to face the fact that politics will not, cannot do it. And we have to get together and in some kind of community effort, bring these things to pass.


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