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The Life and Times of Buckminster Fuller 203

The New Yorker features a review of the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller, on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition in New York 25 years after his death. Fuller was a deeply strange man. He documented his life so thoroughly (in the "Dymaxion Chronofile," which had grown to over 200K pages by his death) that biographers have had trouble putting their fingers on what, exactly, Fuller's contribution to civilization had been. The review quotes Stewart Brand's resignation from the cult of the Fuller Dome (in 1994): "Domes leaked, always. The angles between the facets could never be sealed successfully. If you gave up and tried to shingle the whole damn thing — dangerous process, ugly result — the nearly horizontal shingles on top still took in water. The inside was basically one big room, impossible to subdivide, with too much space wasted up high. The shape made it a whispering gallery that broadcast private sounds to everyone." From the article: "Fuller's schemes often had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals). It concerned him not in the least that things had always been done a certain way in the past... He was a material determinist who believed in radical autonomy, an individualist who extolled mass production, and an environmentalist who wanted to dome over the Arctic. In the end, Fuller's greatest accomplishment may consist not in any particular idea or artifact but in the whole unlikely experiment that was Guinea Pig B [which is how Fuller referred to himself]."

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