Innovating Through Artistry

Creative Inspiration from Bucky

In Author: Adam Shames on April 10, 2009 at 8:25 pm

The Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is now featuring an exhibit on Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the Architect-Designer-Inventor-Scientist-Alternative Energy Advocate-Visionary who was so far ahead of his time that it boggles the mind.

While he was still active in the 1960s–building geodesic domes and spearheading education on global resource allocation–most of us post-baby boomers don’t know much about this man who cared so deeply about helping this planet and the people on it.

Fuller’s Dymaxion line of inventions, including aluminum, portable houses and 3-wheeled, energy-efficient cars, as well as a distortion-free world map and even enclosed, floating cities, all represented unmatched creative thinking and environmental foresight.

Bucky embodied innovation in two key ways:
1. As a comprehensivist with a broad range of skills and interests, able to combine ideas and domains in new ways. (Flexibility competency of creativity)
2. As a person so passionate about helping the world, he followed his unique vision despite naysayers and skeptics. (Originality competency of creativity)

Frankly, Bucky wasn’t always easy to understand, and often made up words to describe ideas and products never before seen. This 21-line explanation (below) I snapped from an old exhibit catalogue reflected how his mind was able to turn on like a faucet (Fluency competency of creativity); it’s all one sentence! You’ll have to visit the exhibit to see if you can make sense of it, which isn’t easy.

Nevertheless, Bucky somehow was able to translate his visionary ideas in ways that spoke to wide audiences and people with means and influence. Even though few of his prototypes led to commercialization or popular use today (though watch out for a future revival) he, like his more practical inventor/comprehensivist forebear Edison, was able to garner financial and commercial support from investors and companies, including Ford for his Dymaxion car, that in part empowered him to be so prolific and well known.

Clearly Bucky was a one-of-a-kind mind. He should be studied and celebrated. But I wonder: How likely would his futurist ideas (they are pretty outlandish even 50 years later) be supported and funded today? Would Bucky’s truly exceptional persuasive personality and perserverance be enough for him to have accomplished and experimented as deeply as he did? Or would he be ignored by investors, pilloried by snarky journalists and cocooned as an under-funded and under-appreciated academic?

Listen to MCA podcasts about Buckminster Fuller and the current exhibit.

  1. Thanks for the info on Bucky. I forgot how important it is to know about him so I passed him on to my 19 year old son. Thannks.

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