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

New Synergists: Ideas like cohousing, smart growth, alternative energy, and recycling all owe fuller a debt.


While a world in which Fuller's principles are applied to every aspect of life-what he called "the Design Science Revolution"-is still to come, his ideas have nonetheless been profoundly influential, especially on the 1970s sustainability movement. Ideas like cohousing, smart growth, alternative energy, and recycling all owe Fuller a debt.In recent years, Architecture for Humanity's co-founder, Cameron Sinclair, created the Open Architecture Network, and the German chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough wrote Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Both endeavors have brought Fuller's ideals forward in a new paradigm for ecological consciousness, proposing radical new approaches that do away with the concept of waste through a "transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design."In 1966, the futurist Stewart Brand embarked on a campaign to have NASA publicly release the first-ever photographs of the earth from space. Brand believed they would be a powerful symbol of the planet's fragility, and indeed, many credit those photographs with the birth of the modern environmental moment. Fuller met Brand during the campaign and encouraged his efforts, which later included the Whole Earth Catalog and The Well, a pioneering internet community. Brand has become a modern champion of Fuller's legacy, helping to ease the ideas of sustainability and global thinking into the digital age.Paralleling Fuller's attention to natural and molecular structural principles, yet branching into more esoteric realms, the recent Gen(H)ome Project exhibition, featuring contributions by the architects Greg Lynn/FORM, Karl S. Chu, Servo, and others, showcased architectural forms integrated with discoveries and processes from contemporary science and technology (including genetics, nanotechnology, climatology, and robotics).Fuller's true legacy, however, is in manufactured dwellings. To date, few of his followers have found the "holy grail"-a commercially viable, environmentally sustainable manufactured house. California's "Case Study" program was arguably the first to attempt it and fail. More recently Dwell has triggered a prefab trend among young designers and home buyers. The jury is still out on whether or not the movement will turn into a solid housing solution.
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