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Buckminster Fuller: "fairy godfather" of Portland Design?


Now through December 7 at the Gerding Theater, Portland Center Stage is producing "R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe", written by D.W. Jacobs and starring Doug Tompos as Fuller.

In a press release sent out recently about the play, it's argued that Fuller is a special touchstone for this city despite not ever having a presence here: "Technology gurus (Linus Torvald), sustainability prophets (Mike Houck), public policy advocates (Sam Adams), Alberta Street hipsters and innovative design firms (Ziba) take heed: you are about to meet your spiritual fairy godfather."

Fuller was reportedly inspired in 1927 after his daughter's death, which he attributed to the drafty Chicago building the family lived in, to embark on what he called "an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefitting all humanity." Fuller came up with the geodesic dome as a result, but also influenced the future of sustainable design and many other fields. He coined terms like "Spaceship Earth" (which Sun Ra and George Clinton are no doubt thankful for), "ephemeralization" (which artists talking about their work are surely glad to borrow).

Fuller's biggest architectural contribution was of course the geodesic dome, the influence of which has been seen in numerous domed sports stadiums, planetariums, and futuristic biospheres like the Eden project in England.

Are architects in Portland inspired by Bucky? Or is he really more of a cartoonish figure than a true day-in-day-out inspiration, or a fairy godfather?

by Brian Libby, 2008

Published with permission of Portland Architecture

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