Buckminster Fuller was a progressive idealist whose visionary ideas inspired a multitude of design innovations in technology, ecology and social responsibility. In March, SFMOMA launched the first exhibition to consider Fuller’s design legacy in the Bay area — The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area. In addition to iconic works by Fuller, the exhibit also includes items from the UC Berkeley CED Archives and works from CED professors and alumni among other Bay Area designers.
The presentation features some of Fuller’s most well-known designs as represented in a Fuller print portfolio, Inventions: Twelve Around One, recently acquired by SFMOMA from the collection of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne. In total, the exhibition showcases some 65 works, including prints, drawings, photographs, documentary video, books, models, and ephemera from Fuller’s oeuvre along with works inspired by his philosophy.
CED was proud to lend six items from the Sandy Hirshen Collection including photographs and manuscripts relating to the building of "Plydomes" — a Fuller-inspired migrant worker housing development at Flash Peak Camp in Indio, CA. Sandy Hirshen, Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Sim Van der Ryn, Professor Emeritus of Architecture, as partners at Hirshen Van der Ryn Architects (1965-1971), were awarded a contract from the federal Office of Economic Opportunity to construct the Flash Peak Camps for migrant works. Between 1965 and1974, the firm constructed thirty-three camps receiving the 1968 AIA National Honor Award for Indio Camp.
Jellyfish House by Lisa Iwamoto, Associate Professor of Architecture at CED and her team at IwamotoScott Architecture is one of the newer works on display. The 2005-06 project envisions a "jellyfish house" on San Francisco Bay, which could filter toxic substances from the water. The concept, which "incorporates emerging material and digital technologies in a reflexive, environmentally contingent manner" is designed with a geometric logic that recalls Fuller’s geodesic designs and also offers a unique contrast to Fuller’s imaginative drawing for a silo-shaped "undersea island."
The show also includes work by Nicholas DeMonchaux, Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at CED. The installation, Local Code, incorporates Fuller’s notion of social betterment through improved access to information. DeMonchaux’s initiative uses geospatial analysis to collect real-time data on health, environmental, and crime activities in San Francisco's publicly owned unused spaces and then proposes temporary solutions for dire conditions, including networks of urban greenways.
"We are delighted and honored to have our collections featured among such stellar company!" said Jennifer Wolch, Dean of UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. "Buckminster Fuller's work has been the catalyst for a generation of dreamers, designers and architects. This show and his legacy will no doubt continue to inspire creative innovations for generations to come."
The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area is on display at SFMOMA from March 31 to July 29.
Chuck Byrne in front of Inventions: Twelve Around One, a portfolio of 12 prints designed by Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne.
Inventions: Twelve Around One, a portfolio of 12 prints designed by Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne.