Future Summer Visions in the City

As a scientist, inventor and architect, Buckminster Fuller’s vision was full of grandeur and foresight. This summer, you can find examples of Fuller’s vision at four locations in the city.

poster for Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller "Starting with the Universe"

at The Whitney Museum of American Art
in the Villages area
This event has ended - (2008-06-26 - 2008-09-21)

poster for Scott Burton, Richard De Vore, Buckminster Fuller Exhibition

Scott Burton, Richard De Vore, Buckminster Fuller Exhibition

at Meulensteen
in the Chelsea 22nd area
This event has ended - (2008-06-25 - 2008-08-15)

at
in the area

In Reviews by Rajesh Barua 2008-07-23 print

'Fly's Eye Dome' (1976) at LaGuardia Place. Photograph © Rajesh Barua.

As a scientist, inventor and architect (to name a few of his pursuits), Buckminster Fuller’s vision was full of grandeur and foresight. And though many of us may have already come to the conclusion from all surrounding evidence that Orwell was right and the worst is yet to come, Fuller’s work is an inspiring and refreshing look into the far reaches of human potential and imagination. Despite their age (dating back to the 1920s), Fuller’s creations and concepts remain futuristic and forward thinking. Although they feature the same wonderment and sense of unhindered possibility, they are not simply kitschy in the way of old science fiction movies of the era. This summer, you can find examples of Fuller’s vision at four locations in the city.

Just south of Washington Square Park, the organically alien-looking 24-foot Fly’s Eye Dome (1976) is on display outside at LaGuardia Place. There until mid-August, the dome looks like the outer half of a hollowed out space rock smashed into the Manhattan sidewalk—until you realize how perfectly symmetrical it is. Geodesic domes are examples of Fuller’s design imperative: Be simple and unobtrusive to the surrounding environment in a way that can provide housing at minimal cost and effort. Though not meant for shelter, Fly’s Eye is oddly welcoming, attracting children to hang from its circular openings despite a sign forbidding just that. The public location serves it well, demonstrating the unassuming power and presence of Fuller’s domes. As the city flows past, the thin circular skeleton holds firmly to the concrete.

Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao project for 'Floating Cloud Structures (Cloud Nine)', ca. (1960). Black-and-white photograph mounted on board. 15 7/8 x 19 3/4 in. (40.3 x 50.2 cm). Image courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller.

The dome is being displayed in conjunction with two Fuller exhibitions at Max Protetch and Sebastian + Barquet. The galleries contain mostly medium-sized photographs as well as pencil drawings that accompany an assortment of odd objects. Large models like Close Packing of Spheres (1980), a polyhedron formed by transparent thermoplastic balls kept in place by steel rods, demonstrate the theories on shape that Fuller used in architecture and invention. Such theories produced off-beat contraptions like Rowing Needle (1968), a large one-man water-transport composed of a single seat, two massive floating needles and a hinged rowing apparatus. The boat hangs from the ceiling of Sebastian + Barquet, dominating its tiny showroom. It is one part of a larger creative process, which includes intimate notes and sketches that brought his inventions to life.'4D Tower: Time Interval 1 Meter' (1928). Gouache and graphite over positive Photostat on paper 14 x 10 7/8 in. (35.6 x 27.6 cm). Image courtesy Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York What ends up on display quite appropriately blurs the line between science and art in a way that Fuller seemed to invite. This theme is explored further in a larger setting at the Whitney Museum.

“Starting with the Universe” at the Whitney feels like a playground extracted from some deep recess of Buckminster Fuller’s brain. It is brought to life with scaled models and concept drawings of the future, polygonal shapes and frenzied pen-scribbled sketches surrounded by scientific equations and symbols. There are tetrahedrons, octet trusses, geodesic domes, and objects labeled “Dymaxion” and “4D.” Terms like “transegrity” and “synergetics,” manifestations of Fuller’s philosophy and Unitarian world-view, are introduced.

Alongside the collection of Fuller’s works are pieces by artists like Isamu Noguchi and Shoji Sadao, friends and colleagues of Mr. Fuller. Resulting collaborations with Sadao produced Dome Over Manhattan (1960) and Floating Cloud Structures (Cloud Nine) (1960), marvelous representations of a Buckminster-dreamed future. These are startling because the things he envisions, such as floating sphere-enclosed cities, are given technical explanations that would seem to make them immediately possible. The awesome scale of his work still affects us. Fuller’s passion for ideas and his determined optimism for the future of humankind are sentiments that seem to be lost and perhaps in need of finding again.

MORE INFO
Whitney Museum of American Art
Max Protetch
Sebastian + Barquet

ALSO OF INTEREST
The Buckminster Fuller Institute

Rajesh Barua

Rajesh Barua. For show, Rajesh is part Peruvian, part Bangladeshi, and a 1st generation American. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he should be finishing a BA in Philosophy any time now from Purchase College, SUNY. In the meanwhile, he gets by doing odd jobs, reading Plato, and attempting to be a freelance writer. Oh, and writing his thesis. » See other writings

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