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On Meeting Buckminster Fuller
From Niels Diffrient:
One event of importance in Buckminster Fuller’s
career not mentioned in “The Fuller Effect” (July/
August 2008, p. 106) was his first large dome commission, which consequently increased his notori-ety and fame.
In the early 1950s I was working in the architectural office of Eero Saarinen. The staff at that time
was a rich stew of up-and-coming architects, including Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, Bob Venturi,
Chuck Bassett, Wilo von Moltke, and Len Parker.
Within their scope of interest was this radical thinker named Buckminster Fuller. A private meeting
and discussion was arranged with Fuller in one of
their homes. In the course of the long hours of that
evening, Bucky showed all his models and drawings, which, of course, contradicted and confounded
all the current architectural thinking of the day.
I came away from that meeting totally seduced
and amazed but also with a complete set of Ozalid
copies of his geodesic-dome drawings.
Sometime later, I was in Detroit freelancing in
the office of Walter B. Ford prior to leaving on a Fulbright grant to Italy. My assignment was the design
of exhibits in the Ford Rotunda, in Dearborn,
Michigan. This was a doughnut-shaped building,
retrieved from a previous world’s fair, with a large
open center court about 90 feet in diameter. I was
shown plans to cover this open center with a steel-and-glass dome that was so heavy it required the
building structure to be considerably reinforced.
With Bucky’s schemes still fresh in my mind, and
his drawings in hand, I explained to Wally Ford how
they could substitute the heavy, costly steel dome
with a novel lightweight geodesic one. Wally was
intrigued and, to his everlasting credit, wanted to
pursue the idea. I called Bucky and invited him
to come to Detroit and meet with Wally and me to
review the possibilities. We had one of the longest
lunches on record, and, of course, Bucky came away
with the commission.
From Peter Wachter:
In 1978, the Illinois Institute of Technology Graduate Association bestowed two of the century’s greats,
Dr. Jonas Salk and R. Buckminster Fuller, with the
Henry Townley Heald Award. The award sculpture
had just been designed by a friend and fellow student from the Institute of Design, Jan Lorenc. It was
his first professional commission. Knowing Jan
granted me entrée to the banquet and, afterward,
a chance to meet the honorees. We mentioned that
we had read several of Bucky’s works in school.
What happened next remains to this day one of the
greatest thrills of our lives.
The Fullers invited Jan and me to their hotel suite.
Bucky spoke and we were in awe. Sometimes, his
wife, Anne, would repeat his words in a very hushed
voice to make sure we understood, while not interrupting Bucky. The whole time, Anne was washing
and slicing and serving us fruit from an enormous
gift basket she described as “far too much for Bucky
and me since we’ll be leaving Chicago tomorrow.”
The greatest thinker I have ever met was surprisingly generous and unpretentious. I echo Norman
Foster’s sentiment: there is no doubt that Bucky has
altered, for the better, the way many of us view the
world—Jan and myself for sure.
Boris Artzybasheff/courtesy the National Portrait Gallery
On page 99 of “Ultimate Collector” in the July/
August 2008 issue, a few images were misattributed.
The photo credits should have read: 4. courtesy
Museum Associates/LACMA; 5. Scott Frances/Esto;
6. John Edward Linden/ Arcaid.co.uk; 7. Katsuaki
Furudate/courtesy Arata Is °ozaki and Associates. Metropolis regrets the error.