Visionary inventor Buckminster Fuller never lived in the Bay Area, but evidence of his influence can be found in many innovative, environmentally conscious projects here. The SFMOMA’s new architecture and design exhibition, “The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area,” explores Fuller’s work as well as a diverse set of local projects that drew inspiration from it.

Sam Green, filmmaker behind "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller," a "live documentary" which played as part of the SFMOMA exhibit
Jennifer Fletcher, assistant curator and acting head of the Department of Architecture and Design at the SFMOMA, and curator of "The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area"

  • OldVet

    In the last cycle like this, I heard Buckminster Fuller speak to a standing room only crowd at SF State as one wag asked:  “Bucky, How do we pull off the revolution?”    We stopped the war, but we did no pull of any revolution..
    rather obviously. His answer stimulated thought, though.  It was about how big and powerful and fast airplanes were.   How were they controlled?   Really.The best story of the night was about the first University.  I can tell this well, but have not the space here.   The short answer,  which is so far short of the story he told, that it is really, as I think of it, like most learning; a violation to give the crib notes.   The way of learning is becoming awake along the path, not ‘getting the right answer’.   He was so wondrous and wandrous as to incite a deep curiosity.    Suffice it to say that the first university began back in the time of yore, when a wise and crafty neanderthal had a bountiful hill and fine family, and a challenger came along.    That man gave engineers a good name.  And challenged storytellers forevermore.

  • I went to the exhibit yesterday, it was great! 
    Definitely was my favorite out of everything currently at sfmoma.
    I finally know who designed the federal building near my house (though, not his most impressive work). & I love his crank-charging laptop for children in third world countries.[Thanks Jennifer!]

  • Bartonp

    I did not see reference to Buckyballs, the class of chemicals, particularly Buckminsterfullene, discovered after his death.   Did I miss them?
    Bart in Walnut Creek

  • Sandjar

    Question: Can you talk about the lowest point of Bucky’s life and how he reinvented himself from near suicidal to becoming a visionary. I think we could learn from him a lot about reinventing ourselves in difficult times. 

    • Guest

      n 1927 Fuller resolved to think independently which included a commitment to “the search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them… finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more.

  • Forint

    Did anyone ever solve the leaking problem with the geodesic dome?
    Other than switching to sprayed concrete, that is?

  • Tom from Tomales

    Hi Kevin,
    I lived in a Geodesic dome for 15 years, 1984 – 1999. They were built in the late ’60s as “proof of concept” by the designer. There are three of them hidden in a forest in the north bay. They ARE a nightmare, they leak, they were hard to build. No surprise they never caught on…

    Tom from Tomales

  • Jack Wiren

    In the mid ’70s I heard Bucky lecture twice; once at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and again at the Toward Tomorrow Fair in Amherst, Massachusetts.  In both cases he had large groups of people on the edge of their seats for 2 or more hours non-stop!  I was thrilled…..and deeply influenced to think big and think in whole systems!! 

  • Ben Smith

    My Dad Maurice Smith, teaching architecture at Kansas State on a Fulbright, had Bucky come lecture in ’57 or so, and later worked with Peter Floyd the engineer to build one of the first geodesics and the Ford camper project.  Dad claims Bucky had the ability to lie down under a table in a room full of revelry & confab and catnap for any precise predertermined number of minutes, waking up refreshed after 7 minutes or so as if from a full nights’ sleep.        cheers Michael et al     -Ben in Oakland ca.

  • Lissa Miner

    , My earliest recollection of hims was as an architect when I was a child during the years he was living the last 20 years of his life. Thinking of Buckminster Fuller as a visionary icon, I childishly imagine him to represent the true genius that may have designed the Emerald City in the Land of Oz.  Even though he seemed to be in charge, The Wizard of Oz, a kind-hearted, cowardly, not so bright con man could never have designed the Emerald City,   but a man like Buckminster Fuller could have.  I wonder is there any link to Bucky and his reading the Wizard of Oz books?  What was his childhood like?

    • OldVet

      A deep understanding of the Wizard of Oz in presented in Web of Debt by Ellen Hodgson Brown.   A marvelous story of what the yellow brick road, and the silver slippers meant, and the lion, tin man, straw man, et al.  A rich allegory of the banking web that was openly talked about nearly a century ago.     Bucky was aware of that, so I hear, but have not read yet ‘The Critical Path’  which has a strong chapter on the creation of money.

  • Basstribble

    My brother built a geo dome in the low sierra about 20 years ago.  It’s a neat place but difficult to maintain.  It’s a 2 story (or taller) home and he once fell off the roof when he had to re-roof it after 15 years of weathering, etc.  And because the roof/wall leaked, he had to replace the sheet rock inside (another re-model nightmare).  The problem is that you need at least two people to move or handle one of the triangular panels because they’re so big.  And same for sheet rock inside, etc. 

    Neat idea for enclosing space, but not economically practical for most people.

  • Derek

    Has Sam mentioned Trimtab yet?? Fascinating metaphor for a great man.

    • OldVet

      The question was alluding to the trimtab as answer to: ‘ Bucky, How do we pull off the Revolution? ‘    What is the trimtab today?   in our money run, foreclosure fostering no job sterile political kabuki where war, financial domination/corruption, nor climate change will not be discussed.

  • Trudi Ramsey

    I was on a trip back home to Honolulu, living at the Ilikai Hotel. I went on to my balcony the first morning home and to my utter amazement the geodesic dome at the Hilton Haw’n Village was being razed!!! Can you comment on why this happened and for what reason (beside the obvious of financial greed)?

  • Billandmaria

    My children delighted in the SQUISH toy, a baby toy based on BMFs’ geo dome design.

  • Tim

    One of the most important books ever written is Fuller’s “Critical Path”. Some lengthy excerpts are posted at MaeBrussell.com in the “Articles, excerpts and notes” section. He wrote that Afghanistan and Pakistan is the most important region of the world to takeover for world domination. A couple years ago I saw Obama speaking to some military people on TV. He said that soon we will pull our troops out of Iraq and send them to Afghanistan and Pakistan because they are harboring the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11/01.

  • Janeqs

    My sister and her husband were LA school teachers. In 1984 they purchased 10 acres of land in the Santa Monica mountains and proceeded to build two 2-story dome houses, using a kit. They had weekends and summer vacations. 8 years later, they moved in. 12 years after that, they were pretty much finished. It took the life insurance money after her husband died to finally refit the roof and do all the last details. Today, they’re gorgeous, perching on a knoll of rock halfway between Malibu and Thousand Oaks at about 1600′ elevation. I was there during a hellish rain storm and they didn’t budge; solid as rocks. And they’re beautiful. They said later they wouldn’t do it again because, tho’ the kits went up quickly, everything in side had to be custom cut because there are no 90 degree corners.

  • OldVet

    Buckminster Fuller was such a top notch rambler.   You never knew where he was going, but he would end up where he had started with a big  ah-ha, in your mind.  Three others, none of them engineers though, are similar in wide range of rambling are the late Gregory Bateson, and William Irwin Thompson and David Graeber.

    How we need to see the big picture, and remove the blinders of so called university ‘disciplines’, as the thinkers above have done.  So many people are prisoners between their own ears.

  • PatriciaRavasio

    I am so sorry I missed this show live, but having heard it, I want more Bucky talk!  I was a radio reporter in 1982 when my interview with Buckminster Fuller turned into a two day lecture. 

    Please bring in more experts about Bucky, and if you want to hear about his predictions for the United States of America, I remember them well!

  • PatriciaRavasio

    I think of Buckminster Fuller as the Leonardo Da Vinci of the 20th century. He was too far ahead, and we still haven’t caught up.  Einstein called him the next Einstein.  We need to forget about the silly geodesic domes and look back into his ideas and inventions for harvesting energy and using systems that build energy income.  Bucky said in 1982 that his patents and ideas would likely be sequestered.  Were they? Please follow my blog on Bucky:  http://www.buckyworld.me

  • Bill P.

    Nice piece.  I can’t wait to see the exhibit.
    Hi Dan.
    -Bill P.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor