College Celebrates Visionary Buckminster Fuller Through Interdisciplinary Activities

Gary Andrews ’73 was getting ready to graduate in December with a bachelor’s in industrial arts when architect, environmentalist, author and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller visited campus in November 1973.

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Artist James Gyre

“I first heard about Buckminster Fuller from the Whole Earth Catalog, which was a must-have publication for all hippies in the early seventies,” Andrews said.

Andrews ended up attending Fuller’s lecture, which packed the Hewitt Union ballroom and required a satellite location for a live broadcast to reach the overflow crowd—the largest audience ever documented for a SUNY Oswego campus speaker.

“He was a very inspirational speaker to me,” Andrews said. “You do have to remember that was a long time ago, but something about the presentation was special and stayed with me all my life.”

In fact, Fuller’s presentation provided the motivation for Andrews to create the geodesic dome project for a master class and with the students in his eighth grade class at Farley Middle School in the North Rockland (N.Y.) School District. He even incorporated Fuller’s books into the class lessons.Copy of p17-campus_display

“Since I was teaching in a metals lab, we used thin strips of tinplate hemmed (folded in half for strength) to construct them,” said Andrews, who retired in 2014 after teaching for 40 years. “The students not only learned technology but used math and science to build the domes.”

In the spring, a new generation of students and campus members found inspiration in Fuller, who is best known for the geodesic dome and his work in sustainability, including his 1973 challenge to the Oswego community offering $1,000 for a workable idea harnessing the power of Lake Ontario’s waves.Copy of p17-fuller

Anchored around The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, a live documentary by Sam Green with live score by indie band Yo La Tengo, the SUNY Oswego campus celebrated the life and works of Fuller through several related activities this spring.

“The ARTSwego Performing Arts Series aims to present arts events that encourage interdisciplinary conversa­tion,” said John Shaffer, director of arts pro­gramming. “Filmmaker Sam Green’s The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller is a creative project with a broad reach.

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Professor John Belt

“We also liked the shape of Sam’s work, creating cinema with the ‘feel’ of a live event, where the audience is in direct communication with those onstage, co-creating the evening through their response,” he said. “Sam’s work is revolutionary in the best sense—building a compelling new model. We think Buckminster Fuller would approve.”

Technology education professor and design expert John Belt, who is a Fuller scholar and devotee, incorporated reading Fuller’s books and the fabrication of Fuller-related structures into his Design Probe course. Some of the students’ fabrications were exhibited at the Synergetics Collaborative Symposium at the Rhode Island School of Design.

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Campus display in Park Hall (top); Fuller’s 1973 visit to campus; students’ geodesic dome in Hewitt Union

“Fuller is known to the majority of people for his large, space-enclosing domes,” Belt said. “For me, a huge hook was his extraordinary love of the planet and respect for his devotion to work for all humanity.”

Fuller was tireless in his call to “do more with less” and create a world that would “work for 100 percent of humanity … without ecological destruction.”

Belt said he hopes last semester’s presentations encouraged campus members to work in Fuller’s “Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science manner to make the world work better in a collaborative way, as Fuller said, on ‘Livingry not Weaponry.’”

—Margaret Spillett

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