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GOOD Guide: R. Buckminster Fuller (2 of 6)

Dymaxion: Wave of the Future: Fuller designed a car, a house, a world map, and a new sport.


The Dymaxion Car

A dramatic leap in car design, Fuller's 1933 Dymaxion car was modeled on an airplane fuselage. It was a three-wheeled, streamlined vehicle in an era when Ford's boxy "buggies" were the norm; like the Dymaxion house, its body was made of aluminum-clad steel. Extremely long, at 18 feet, it could seat 11 people, yet was so aerodynamic that it could hit speeds of 120 miles per hour. The sculptor Isamu Noguchi, Fuller's friend and collaborator, made the plastic models that led to its elegant form.Because its steering wheel was connected to a single back wheel, the car could spin on a very narrow axis. It was also the first vehicle to use air-conditioning, and gas mileage estimates range from 30 to 50 miles per gallon (a modern Ford Taurus gets 24).At the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, a prototype was involved in a fatal collision that scared investors and brought continued development to an abrupt end. Only one of the three Dymaxion prototypes is still in existence.

Dymaxion House

The Dymaxion house was a light, prefabricated dwelling suspended from a central pole. Its aluminum-clad steel structure had a round, "jellyfish" shape that gave it a futuristic look, radically different from other houses constructed at the time. A circular mast at the top was designed to rotate in the wind, cooling the interior. A water system collected and cleaned rain and wastewater to minimize water use.Fuller developed a production process modeled after those used to build World War II aircraft. The 1,000-square-foot structure would be delivered in two very large packages. Sold through a dealership, customers could customize their furniture and choose their interior wall panels from a range of colors.Fuller developed the prototyped of the Dymaxion house in 1946 and it received huge amounts of publicity: Fuller's company received over 35,000 orders. Sadly, none were fulfilled. Production failed due to "internal management problems" and the company went bankrupt.

Dymaxion Chronofile

From 1917 to 1983 Fuller documented his life every 15 minutes. He kept receipts, sketches, phone messages, and any and all other ephemera in a large scrapbook, or "chronofile." His life is has been called the most documented human life in history.

Dymaxion World Map

Fuller witnessed the rise of the superpowers after World War II and in response created "a new cartographic projection system by which humanity can view the map of the whole planet Earth as one world island in one world ocean, [an] undistorted map for studying world problems and displaying in their true proportion resources and other data." The first map ever patented, it is still in use today.

World Game

Played on a Dymaxion world map the size of a basketball court, Fuller's game encouraged players to distribute resources for "win-win" scenarios. It is credited as an early inspiration for creators of computer simulations, and later virtual worlds.
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