25 August 2012

Bucky Fuller at SFMOMA

In May 2012, I wrote a review for the West Coast edition of Architect's Newspaper on the exhibit on Buckminster Fuller's influence on Bay Area designers, "The Utopian Impulse" at SFMOMA, curated by Jennifer Fletcher. Fuller is best known for the geodesic dome. His US Pavilion at the Montreal Expo '67 (above), which also saw the debut of Moishe Safdie (Habitat '67, the ferro-concrete reply to Fuller's famous question, "What does your building weigh?"), made him briefly a household name, but the dome patents made his fortune.

Something that interests me about Fuller is the way he thought about time as the fourth dimension of design. His Dymaxion house (or 4D) prototype (above), for example, was intended to be used "as a service," rather than owned by those using it. The timeshare concept relates to it, but he took it further, imagining that the house could be pared down because the occupants at any given point in time would be essentially mobile, and therefore using it at specific times of day and for specific activities. This is the way some many companies think of the workplace now, organizing around patterns of use that are discontinuous and activity-based. This enables them to reduce the overall space they allocate to a given cohort of people. 

In passing, I mentioned the proposed Apple headquarters (above), designed by Norman Foster in collaboration with Steve Jobs (or vice versa). Foster is a self-declared follower of Fuller, but the Apple HQ only draws on Fuller's machine-age legacy, leaving time out of the picture. It seems to be a trend now among some tech companies to want their workforce to be almost continuously present - the opposite of recent experience in the same sector: the aggressive leveraging of mobility. The Apple HQ is designed to house 13,000 people, all at the same time. I'm not sure what Fuller would have thought of it, but it speaks mainly to Apple's penchant for secrecy. It's nearest equivalent is the Pentagon.

Gensler Monographs #s 3 & 4

Two new additions to the Gensler Monograph series arrived yesterday, 24 August 2012, from the printer, Artron, in Shenzhen, China. I edited the one on the left, which has an introduction by Allison Arieff. My colleague Vernon Mays edited the one on the right, introduced by Mimi Zeiger. The books are very well made - they lay flat and the stitching is of hardback quality. This time, we worked with Hal Belmont, a print broker in San Francisco who's a total pro. There will be e-book versions, distributed by ORO Editions.