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Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe

June 26–Sept 21, 2008

Installation view of Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 26–September 21, 2008). Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins

Installation view of Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 26–September 21, 2008). Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins

One of the great American visionaries of the twentieth century, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) endeavored to see what he, a single individual, might do to benefit the largest segment of humanity while consuming the minimum of the earth's resources. Doing "more with less" was Fuller's credo. He described himself as a "comprehensive anticipatory design scientist," setting forth to solve the escalating challenges that faced humanity before they became insurmountable.

Fuller's innovative theories and designs addressed fields ranging from architecture, the visual arts, and literature to mathematics, engineering, and sustainability. He refused to treat these diverse spheres as specialized areas of investigation because it inhibited his ability to think intuitively, independently, and, in his words, "comprehensively."

Although Fuller believed in utilizing the latest technology, much of his work developed from his inquiry into "how nature builds." He believed that the tetrahedron was the most fundamental, structurally sound form found in nature; this shape is an essential part of most of his designs, which range in scale from domestic to global. As the many drawings and models in this exhibition attest, Fuller was committed to the physical exploration and visual presentation of his ideas.

The results of more than five decades of Fuller's integrated approach toward the design and technology of housing, transportation, cartography, and communication are displayed here, much of it for the first time. This exhibition offers a fresh look at Fuller's life's work for everyone who shares his sense of urgency about homelessness, poverty, diminishing natural resources, and the future of our planet.


This exhibition is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in association with the Department of Special Collections of the Stanford University Libraries.

Major support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art in honor of Linda Pace, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Atwater Kent Foundation, and The Solow Art and Architecture Foundation.

Media partner Thirteen/WNET


The Art Institute of Chicago
Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University
Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Automobile Museum, The Harrah Collection
The Noguchi Museum
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Special Collections Research Library, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Special Collections Library, Stanford University

Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne
Medard Gabel
Alexandra and Samuel May
Edwin Schlossberg
Shoji Sadao
Kenneth Snelson


From his geodesic dome to books popularizing the terms “spaceship earth” and “synergetics,” the life mission of R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) was to create living environments that minimized consumption of the earth’s resources while maximizing interconnections with global systems of information and transportation. This book explores Fuller's extraordinary body of work focusing on his wide-ranging and sometimes controversial role within the worlds of art, architecture, and utopian thought.

This catalogue is no longer available at the Museum Shop.

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