Buckminster Fuller: Geodesic Domes

Last week I saw Sam Green's live documentary The Lovesong of R. Buckminster Fuller. Green himself narrated the film, and Yo La Tengo played an accompanying score created specifically for the project. It really felt like a documentary coming alive in front of you, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the format. Green was able to influence and be influenced by the mood in the room, and to add funny asides or emphasize points in way that just couldn't be done if he weren't right there. It was also almost magical to experience live that specific type of music you hear in documentaries that punctuates sadness, excitement, doom or wonderment.

Buckminster Fuller is most famous for popularizing the geodesic dome, but he was an all around visionary. A before-his-time figure who wanted to end war by means of good design, Fuller wanted do more with less before we even realized how much less we had.

These are pics of my current favorite dome at Slide Ranch, in Marin. It's a teaching farm and absolutely beautiful place where we're lucky enough to be getting married this fall. In addition to a yurt, this dome is the only other structure on the grounds where we'll be having the wedding.

Green's film was fun and interesting if not a trenchant, exhaustive examination of Fuller's life. But then again, what could be? He's said to have lived the most documented human life in history, and aside from the dome, Fuller may be most famous for his dymaxion chronofile  — a 1300-linear-foot archive consisting of every documentable thing he came into contact with throughout his entire life (the dymaxion chronofile lives right here in the Bay Area at Stanford University Library — I could go visit!). On the one hand, this is an amazing art project that's left a fascinatingly complete and one-of-a-kind record of an exceptional man's life; on the other hand, it's radically anti-minimal. If the dome does more with less in the sense that it's the most efficient means of enclosing space, isn't collecting every piece of your life's detritus a way of doing less with more? I mean, you would need a really big dome.

Then again, what utopian figure isn't without his inherent contradictions? And that's the thing about utopian visions, they don't tend to work out. But they do provide inspiration, both earnest and reactionary, and it seems to me Bucky's ideas are valuable for that reason. We may not have achieved peace via dome, but they're certainly lovely, interesting, practical structures for some purposes. And if they didn't revolutionize humanity, they at least crystallize ideas that point in a hopeful direction.