Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bucky's Three Questions ....

When I was an undergraduate student in Architecture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, we had a visit by Buckminster Fuller.

Buckminster Fuller had one of the most fascinating
and original minds of his century.

Born in 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts, he was the latest
--if not the last--of the New England Transcendentalists.
Like the transcendentalists, Fuller rejected the established religious and political notions
of the past and adhered to an idealistic system of thought based on
the essential unity of the natural world and the use of experiment and intuition
as a means of understanding it.

But, departing from the pattern of his New England predecessors,
he proposed that only an understanding of technology in the
deepest sense would afford humans a proper guide to
individual conduct and the eventual salvation of society.

Buckminster Fuller was one of our world’s first futurists and global thinkers.
His 1927 decision to work always and only for all humanity led him to
address the largest global problems of poverty, disease and homelessness.

He realized early on that by examining global problems in the
context of the whole system—the whole planet—
he would have the best chance of identifying large-scale trends
that would allow him to anticipate the critical needs of humanity.


"Bucky" came to the archictecture exhibition room and talked to the students for almost three hours. His wife dragged him away to go to dinner. He came back around 9 pm to talk to the entire university at the large lecture hall. Around midnight his wife came on stage and said it's late and time for Bucky to get some sleep!

I don't remember all of what he said, but I remember the three questions he wanted architects to answer -

1. How many pieces are in your building?

2. How much does your building weigh?

3. How many BTU's did it take to produce every thing required for your building?

Bucky was searching for the greatest covering he could produce with the most minimal of effort and effect on the environment. He believed that if you wanted to do that - you would work with the most minimal number of elements, that weighed the least amount and took the least amount of energy to produce.

This kind of thinking led Bucky to develop the geodesic dome...

... while I don't think that kind of structure is the answer,
I do believe that the questions are still worth pondering.
. . .

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Recommended Books

  • - Precedents in Architecture
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  • - A Pattern Language
  • - The Architecture of Happiness
  • - Architectural Composition
  • - Design Language
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  • - Chambers for a Memory Palace