Invisible Architecture

The NanoWorld of Buckminster Fuller

by Bonnie Goldstein DeVarco



A Note to the Reader. . .

The artist Vincent Van Gogh once remarked on how he was transfixed by "the vertigo of the infinite."  As I sit in front of my computer screen linked up to the vast world of cyberspace through my modem and phone line, I am beginning to get a glimpse of what he meant.  In a matter of a few short years, the World Wide Web, an ephemeral repository and my favorite archive, has become an inexhaustible contemporary resource library.  The web has quickly become a medium whose content is as varied as it is infinite, expanding geometrically by the day in every direction around the planet. It is a growing databank of current and ancient information changing moment by moment, assembling its global presence by millions of people in millions of different ways.

In the following hypermedia document containing links to more than 250 other pages around the web, I sketch out an interdisciplinary thesis that places Buckminster Fuller, one of the great innovators of this century, into a unique lineage of great thinkers, artists, scientists and inventors.  This thesis also connects some of his ideas to leading edge technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and computer information systems. The key to reading this piece is for the reader to explore the myriad links within it -- links to people and organizations all over the world, in numerous fields of inquiry, covering a a broad cross section of disciplines.  I have tried to make it easy for the reader to explore these links by choosing the most relevant pages or images I could find on the web and placing them straight in the text of this document (which runs about 65 pages in total).

The reader may not agree with various aspects of the thesis itself.   However, I hope the mere juxtaposition of so many different ideas with links directly to their sources, histories and/or originators will help the reader to jump around in history and poke around into subject matter that she would not have looked at otherwise.  This may also assist in helping the reader explore some of the patterns that connect the arts and sciences together in a fresher, more visually stimulating way.  Fuller's geometry, known to most only by his most famous artifact -- the geodesic dome -- seems to make good sense in each of these contexts, demonstrating that he was indeed, as he was often referred to, "the Leonardo da Vinci of the 20th Century."

When I wrote "Invisible Architecture" almost nine months ago, it was already easy to find a plethora of web sites and web pages within sites which explain and brilliantly demonstrate many of its varied ideas visually.  Moving vector geometries, virtual reality polyhedra, excellent photos of artifacts, images of archival manuscript pages, and brief biographies on mathematicians, scientists and artists were all merely a link away.  Pages all over the Web could quickly illustrate or provide background on almost any current example or historical topic I alluded to.  These links could also lead the reader to vast databanks of information on various subjects compiled by hundreds of people in each field of inquiry. For an interdisciplinary project like this, there could be no better medium than a hyperlinked piece on the World Wide Web.

Far more than being merely a collection of glorified company brochures, student or personal home pages and information about information, the Web has already become an intellectual and multi-media resource to be reckoned with. The sheer content on the Web has clearly more than tripled (quadrupled?) since I began this project and the sophistication of the links are well beyond my wildest expectations.  I have now have found and updated  more than 250 links within the document -- links to some of the clearest, most beautiful pages, articles and visuals I could find.

A few master sites have been particularly helpful during my online research for this paper.  Each of these sites (some containing hundreds of pages and images) stand out as treasure troves with regard to the life and work of Buckminster Fuller, the history of mathematics,  the newest experiments in geometry and the documentation of the burgeoning new field of nanotechnology. These sites include:

The new hypertext online version of Fuller's magnum opus, Synergetics, put up on the web by Bob Gray.

WNET's "Buckminster Fuller - Thinking Out Loud" companion web site to the American Master's 1996 documentary on Buckminster Fuller.

Kirby Urner's "Synergetics On the Web"

Joe S. Moore's  "Bucky Virtual Institute"

George Hart's "Pavilion of Polyhedrality"

Swarthmore's "Geometry Forum"

"Eric's Treasure Trove of Math"

Richard Hawkins' Gallery of transformational geometries

MacTutor's "History of Mathematics" Biography  Page

The Foresight Institute.


I am deeply grateful to E.J. Applewhite and Joseph Clinton for their excellent advice and generous access to their personal collections of Buckminster Fuller and the history of synergetics and geodesics.  Special gratitude to Allegra Fuller Snyder and Jaime Snyder for having trusted my work in Buckminster Fuller's archive for many years.  A high five to J.Baldwin for pushing me forward into uncharted waters (and lending me a skilled hand when it was most needed).

I would also like to extend my enthusiastic thanks to the following people for their support, time, interest and feedback during the early stages of this project -- E.J.Applewhite, J. Baldwin, Tony DeVarco, Joe Clinton, Bobby Jaber, Donald G. Moore, Bill Perk, Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Rich Bauer, Thomas T.K. Zung, Kirby Urner, Bob Gray, Gerald de Jong, Russell Chu, Alex Gerber, Robert Orenstein, Karl Erickson, Danu, Stu Quimby, Joe S. Moore, Richard Hawkins, Shoji Sadao, Shirley Sharkey and Sarah Stanley..  Gratitude to my husband Tony and my children, Angelina, Joel and Nicolas (and dearest Imajean!!!) for their patience and inspiration.

Special thanks to the Buckminster Fuller Institute for the research grant which made this paper possible.



Dedicated to Ed Applewhite... for a multitude of reasons.


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