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Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe

June 26–Sept 21, 2008

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

In the News

Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe wins 2008 AICA Award for Best Architecture or Design Show
--International Association of Art Critics 

“a treasure trove of some of the most famous and rare Fuller artefacts and memorabilia.”

“mandatory viewing not just for those curious about the great visionary—whose ideas are increasingly relevant—but for anyone with a speck of concern about the fate of the planet. That is, for all of us."
--Time Out New York

“We are still figuring out what this otherworldly visionary was really up to, and the Whitney exhibition makes a perfect point of departure."
--The Architect’s Newspaper

“Though largely a show about architecture, Starting With the Universe presents Fuller as a revolutionary and visionary thinker"

“Spaceship Earth: It’s Not Too Late for a Course Correction”
--The Huffington Post

“The Sustainable Dreamer: Why Buckminster Fuller Still Matters”

Audio: "R. Buckminster Fuller, American Visionary"
--WNYC, The Leonard Lopate Show

Audio: "The Comprehensivist"
--WNYC, News

“[Visitors] may be a bit overwhelmed by the elegance, strangeness and sheer diversity of R. Buckminster Fuller's designs."
--Voice of America

Video: "25 Years After His Death, Visionary R. Buckminster Fuller Continues to Inspire Efforts for a More Sustainable Planet"
--Democracy Now!

“Fixing Earth One Dome at a Time”
--The New York Times

Slideshow: "Buckminster Fuller at the Whitney Museum"
--The New York Times

“What We Can Learn from Buckminster Fuller”

“10 Gonzo Machines from Rogue Inventor Buckminster Fuller”
--Popular Mechanics

“Buckminster Fuller: The Big Thinker”

“Buckminster Fuller’s inventions didn’t always work, but his ideas still inspire.”

“The Engineer of Dreams”
--The Star-Ledger

“Can Fuller be rehabilitated as a 21st-century design hero?”
--International Herald Tribune

“The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller”
--The New York Times

“A Three-Wheel Dream That Died at Takeoff”
--The New York Times

“Fuller’s Dymaxion Houses”
--New York

“Dymaxion Man: The Visions of Buckminster Fuller”
--The New Yorker

Slideshow: "Weird Science"
--The New Yorker

Video: "Buckminster Fuller at the Whitney Museum"
--Architectural Record

“In a Small World, His Dome is Still Big”
--Chicago Tribune

“Flying Cars, Cloud Cities and Other Forgotten Inventions of Buckminster Fuller”

“Now Showing: Buckminster Fuller”
--The Moment: T Magazine

“Bucky Fuller Returns”

“The Universe First”
--Terraform Earth

“Spaceship Earth”
--Tim Paul’s Museum Hours

“Reexamining Bucky”
--A Daily Dose of Architecture

“Homegrown Visionaries: Thanks to Buckminster Fuller”

“A Pair of Flying Slippers”
--Core 77 Design

Buckminster Fuller and the Secret Magic of Serendipity

“Buckminster Fuller: Futurist”
--Revelations from an Unwashed Brain

“Buckminster Fuller’s Dome Re-Assembled and in NYC”



A 30-second online art project:

Peter Burr, Sunshine Monument

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