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Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe


US Pavilion for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, 1967

Image courtesy of the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller


Philosopher. Forecaster. Designer. Poet. Inventor. Advocate of alternative energy.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) was one of the greatest American thinkers of the 20th century—and a visionary for the 21st century. Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe is the first major US exhibition of Fuller's work in 35 years and is a testament to his fascinating mix of utopian vision and organic pragmatism. A combination of models, sketches, and other artifacts—many on view for the first time—represent six decades of the artist's integrated approach to housing, transportation, communication, and cartography.

A man of remarkable prescience, Fuller’s credo was “more for less,” and by the late 1920s he recognized the need for environmentally sound design that would benefit the largest segment of society while using the fewest resources—a decidedly contemporary concern. Believing in the interconnectedness of all things, Fuller’s ambition in life was to close the gap between the sciences and humanities for the genuine good of humankind. His work has extensively influenced the artists, designers, architects, engineers, environmentalists, and mathematicians of today.

Fuller’s designs reflect his enthusiasm for technology as well as his faith in “how nature builds.” He is perhaps best known for his 1949 design of the geodesic dome, one of the strongest, most economic structures ever devised. In addition to several geodesic study models, the MCA’s presentation features numerous models of Fuller’s projects, including his Dymaxion designs and dome structures, as well as the Tetrascroll portfolio. Fuller’s extensive connections with Chicago are also highlighted through photographs and documents from his years spent living, teaching, and working in the city. The MCA invites you to plumb the mind of this self-proclaimed “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist.”

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

The Dymaxion Study Center is organized by the AIA New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture Foundation in association with the Buckminster Fuller Institute. The Dymaxion Study Center presents over four hundred volumes of books by and about visionary inventor and theorist Buckminster Fuller, whose work has influenced generations of architects and environmentalists. These volumes include the complete and extremely rare set of Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics Dictionary edited by Ed Applewhite; as well as other well-known works by Fuller, such as Synergetics and Nine Chains to the Moon. The Study Center includes selections from Fuller's “live book squad” of influential texts and a Dymaxion timeline, outlining the evolution of Fuller's geodesic designs in the context of their co-evolution with the Dymaxion map.

Special Closing Performance

  • Jen & Ira & You at the MCA Meet Buckminster Fuller Meeting the Hippies in Golden Gate Park: A Re-Performance

Sunday, July 5, 2 pm

4th-floor lobby

Durational performance by Jennifer Karmin & Ira S. Murfin.

Jennifer Karmin, author of the text-sound epic Aaaaaaaaaaalice, is the curator of the Red Rover Series and cofounder of the public art group Anti Gravity Surprise. Her multidisciplinary projects have been presented across the US and Japan at festivals, artist-run spaces, and on city streets.

Ira S. Murfin is a founding member of devised theatre collective The Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials. His solo and collaborative performance work has been presented in Chicago venues and beyond, and his writing has appeared in a number of national publications, most recently the journal Requited.


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. Support for the Chicago presentation is generously provided by Helen and Sam Zell, Mary Ittelson and Rick Tuttle, the Terra Foundation for American Art, Richard A. Lenon, Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel, Helmut and Deborah Jahn, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Acorn Foundation, Brian Herbstritt, Judith Neisser, and the Lillian H. Florsheim Foundation. Air transportation is provided by American Airlines, the Official Airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Official Airline of the Museum of Contemporary Art