Fuller, Buckminster

Carroll Gantz
Birth/Death Age: 
Buckminster Fuller, H/IDSA

Born Richard Buckminster Fuller, he was one of the Century's most intellectual and radical inventor/designers. He studied mathematics at Harvard 1913-1915, worked with Armour & Co. until 1922, and became president of a wall-building systems company. In 1927, he formed the 4-D Company to develop his "design science." His first invention was a circular house mounted on a central pole, called a "4-D Utility Unit," conceived as a solution to global affordable housing. He also began development of a half-plane, half car, called the "4-D Zoomobile." In 1929 Fuller displayed his work at the Marshall Field department store in Chicago, where public relations expert Waldo Warren created the term "Dymaxion" for Fuller's house and car. "Dymaxion" was coined from the words dynamic, maximum and tension. In 1933 he patented and demonstrated working prototypes of his teardrop-shaped "Dymaxion Transport Unit" for the Chicago Century of Progress exhibition. Designed by him and Starling Burgess, the car was driven by two front wheels, with a third steering wheel in the rear. Three cars were built, but a fatal accident in one in 1935 doomed the project. In 1938 Fuller designed and prototyped a prefabricated integrated unit with all necessary functional bathroom fixtures and called it the "Dymaxion Bathroom. " In 1942, Fuller patented a prototype of his circular Dymaxion House including his "Dymaxion Bathroom" in response to the aircraft industry's demand for low-cost temporary housing. He built the prototype in Wichita, KS in 1946 using components produced by the Beech Aircraft Company and called it the "Wichita House." Despite orders for 35,000 units, Fuller delayed production with design improvements until it was too late, and his company went bankrupt. In 1949, he started experimentation seeking a structure using minimum weight and materials to enclose maximum space.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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