R Buckminster Fuller, Bruce Hamilton, Mark Erickson 10/11/1982
We Have Velcro
[Al's note: This is a long piece: the full transcript of Bucky Fuller in a conversation with Bruce Hamilton and Mark Erickson transcribed by Bruce and recently OCR'd by yours truly. The date was 10/11/1982.
Mark and Bruce proposed that Bucky provide a design for $10k. The discussion is extremely technical but good to have digitalized, I think, and will hopefully be of interest to Bucky fans and tentophiles. The raw scan is here.
I have to admit that I find it almost incomprehensible. Here's the part I think I understand:
Bruce provided a quick summary that helps:
It is amazing how little that I remembered of this visit and the offer to make a design for TNF. The visit was at his house. Mark and I and Bucky. There was a lot of talk about tensegrity tent poles, tension loops, struts with elbows and so on. He remembered the Oval and the hoop poles on the outside and he stated categorically that was not what he has in mind. Almost said it was wrong. Then, through Amy, “He has a strong bias that the poles must go.”
Anyway, having a shot at him, I challenged him about his Critical Path, book, and its prediction of the eminent collapse of the housing market. He asked if I had read Critical Path and I said, yes, twice. He said the economy was bankrupt and we are paying $100 Billion to service the debt and that it would collapse very soon. It was in the context of the economic back and forth that he said “Autonomy is of the Essence”. So that is a direct quote of Bucky.
I had not thought of the $10,000 deal between Bucky and TNF for at least 30 years, so thanks for bringing it up.
Of course, he died before any design efforts materialized. And the economic state is almost precisely the same.
Bruce, also, sent along some photos to spice up the story. (Full picture set here.) He notes:
This set of pictures, taken in my front yard in Berkeley shows the approach I was taking to a family size “tensegrity tent”. The pole network stands on its own without the skin. (The photos are from 1975. They predates the contact with Gillis and shows the great problem of zillions of part with a true tensegrity structure. The Gillis breakthrough was that the curved pole and skin keep each other in place.) The guy with the thick head of black hair with no shirt on in the two right hand pictures is the late Tom Mann.]
AUTONOMY IS OF THE ESSENCE
Bucky: You’re very familiar with the tensegrity structure, aren’t you?
Bruce: Oh, yeah.
Bucky: I don’t need to get a model out?
Bruce: Oh, no. I’ve made quite a few.
Bucky: So, the whole problem in tensegrity domeing was how to have them extended firmly. I found that we could certainly put them into the ends of struts in internal chords into pockets; we could zipper them in. I’d like you to have them and you take a.. .well. . .there are a number of different ways of making toggle joints where you just push the thing and it goes by a central point and gives it maximum stretch. But the point is, it has to be, has to have that stretch and I don’t.. .it doesn’t have to be very high frequency to give you a very good sized dome.. We now have all the tensegrity mathematics for what we call parallel truncatable where there’s the greater one and these two parallels on either side of it have the same effect as if you have just one in the center. We’re able to apply these parallels to make whatever sized openings we like. That was the system I intended to pursue. I’m very confident it will make a very extraordinary structure. It’s a very extraordinary matter, in tensegrity, you can take a number of struts, whatever you are going to have, and you can make a loop, a tension loop, which goes back and forth, one end of the strut to the other. In other words, one strut is in the center of a tight loop pulled on it and then the struts have slots in their ends and they come on the middle of those tension members. In other words, the tension members can be fastened to one another to hold the whole of the dome, the whole of the sphere, the whole of the net, can be prefabricated. Can you follow me there? I said we have a condition where every strut can have a loop two ways and the strut being slotted, they come in on the middle of another strut on these two tension members. However, we can remove the strut because the end of the strut is always coming into the middle of another. We can make the net, I can make a net out of just loops and fasten these midpoints at the right mathematical points. It can be a complete sphere in which you then in…strut…. in…
Mark: Insert struts.
Bucky: To struts and anyone can circle these loops giving the stretch. Can you see that?
Bruce: Um hum. I think I got that.
Bucky: This is really pretty unique. It really is sort of a patentable condition. You have...have your whole entrances in a prefabricated, tension is continuous, never breaks. You can make the same thing, not doing two loops, but just coming in on the same tension member. You can have a strut with one tension member on its back and the other struts come in, strangely enough, they don’t push by the center line, they pull.., they pull out of it. But, it is more stable with the two. At any rate, I don’t have anything more fancy than the... I’m inserting struts on the inside of your sphere into pockets at their ends. One pocket would have to be zipped up. You could really thrust them very effectively to distribute the load and it would stand up very beautifully.
Bucky: You’re very familiar with the tensegrity structure, aren’t you?
Bruce: You know, Bucky, in 1976 when we showed you the Oval right over there, on the beach...
Bucky: Right, you tried to put the things on the outside.
Bruce: Everything was.. .but, you drew me a sketch with the tensegrity poles inside.
Bucky: On the inside.
Bruce: It was 4 frequency, which I made a couple. But, it was very hard to erect because I’d get in there...when you start, I had all fabric with pockets. I’d get in there and put the poles in and the skin was the tension. It worked; I could stand it up. But, I was the only one who could erect the tent. Understand what I am saying?
Bucky: Yeah, I hear you.
Bruce: Each pole, of course I had 50 poles, approximately, because I had a hemisphere, room-size, poles about that long.
Bruce: Just A and B.
Bruce: So, do you have in mind that the pole would always be attached to the fabric?
Mark: Perhaps the struts could always be attached to the fabric.
Bruce: See the erection...
Bucky: It can’t be for its length, only at its ends.
Bruce: Only the ends, right. Yeah, just the ends, right.
Bucky: Then have your struts inserted and made fast and have a toggle will just go by the center point.
Bruce: So, you envision a package of fabric with the poles fixed to the fabric and then...
Bruce: Sort of like elbows.
Mark: So, the strut would be...would have an elbow in it?
Bucky: You’re very familiar with the tensegrity structure, aren’t you?
Bucky: Some sort of toggle joint.
Bruce: We’d keep it down to only maybe 2 frequency. We’d keep it a small number of struts.
Bruce: Low frequency.
Bucky: The only thing about it, you have two situations; the higher the frequency, the more delicate the struts.
Bruce: Yeah, I was working with very little struts, but there were 50 of them.
Mark: How big a tent was that?
Bruce: Two meter. 1.8 meter radius. Room size. I made a couple of them. Okay, umm, what’s the next step? If I say to you, “We want you to help with this, we’ll pay you whatever the price is.” Is it...what’s the next step? What do you have in mind?
Bucky: I’d rather...I can’t force myself on you, but I didn’t want to have trouble with... I think it’s critical...
Bruce: I don’t think there’s any...I really appreciate that, but...
Bucky: I’m not wanting to force anything on you.
Bruce: No, not at all, not at all. It’s very exciting news for us and Hap. We would love to be able to do it.
Bucky: There is another thing you can do which would be... .for the moment, I’m just going to talk liquids and hydraulics. This could be done with tubing and with liquids.
Bruce: Pump them up.
Bucky: Anti—freeze liquid. It doesn’t take much to make a very powerful hydraulic strut.
Mark: One time Bucky was explaining this to me. .when. . .when you visited our North Face plant in Berkeley several years ago, you were explaining that to me and the analogy you used was that of a tree... how the tree derives all its strength from hydraulics.
Bucky: All your body.. .all the biology takes its strength, its shaping hydraulically, with relatively small cylinders; sort of cigar—shaped cylinders which nature gives little skins and pneumatically it’s tensed and hydraulically it’s taut.
Mark: Back to the discontinuous struts for a second. Is it conceivable that these struts perhaps do not have an elbow in them, but perhaps they’re tethered to the tent skin in the middle? Free to move around at their ends and that setting up the tent is merely a process of plugging the ends in place?
Bucky: I made a...by welding, I took a very long tetrahedron, triangular based bearing, out to a very fine point. Now, two tetrahedra, base to base, they make their own toggle. One side is higher than the other. Do you see that?
Mark: Um hmm.
Bruce: One side’s a little higher than the other?
Bucky: You have 2 tetrahedra.
Bruce: Yeah. Okay.
Bucky: You have one flat side down, this way.
Bruce: You put that down. Yeah, there’s your toggle.
Bucky: It’s a little longer the other way so, once you go by its center, it locks.
Mark: Um hmm.
Bucky: Can you see that?
Mark: Um hmm.
Bucky: Can you feel what I’m saying to you?
Bruce: I think I’m missing something, Bucky.
Bruce: Keep trying. I’ve got real long tetrahedra. I’ve got 2 of them.
Bucky: I’ve got very long tetrahedra and this is the base line here.
Bruce: I’m on this base. It’s flat, but why is that going to lock?
Mark: It’s...once you go past the base, once you go past the flat.
Bucky: Because the center of gravity is not in the middle, it is at the one—third position, so, automatically you go by a locking point.
Bruce: I’ve got what you have in mind. You push this strut in and it locks.
Bucky: Just hinged here and you just go by the hinge point and it’s locked. That can be really very attractive.
Bruce: I’ve still got this...if you picture the man gets to his camp site, wants to pitch the tent...if we have to go in the tent...now we have the fabric and the poles...
Bruce: But, there’s no volume.
Bruce: I’ve got to get in here and start.
Bruce: Is this what you’ve got in mind?
Bucky: Yeah, yeah.
Bruce: Go around the perimeter first.
Bucky: Yeah. Yep.
Mark: Perhaps pulling out?
Bruce: See, that’s the problem I had with it was you get in there, I had all my struts separate, all the struts here and I had to get in that tent and start putting them in. Very hard. Just physically hard.
Bruce: Compared to being outside and threading.
Bucky: Well, we could do...we could run them on the outside on that.
Bucky: With tension to the skin.
Bruce: And then suspend it.
Bucky: Suspend it.
Bruce: Might be better. Might be better.
Bucky: No trouble whatsoever.
Bruce:. Well, what is the...the deal?
Bucky: I think there is no deal unless you want to do something. Unless you really are looking for a new number and if you’d like to have something I’ve designed, maybe.
Mark: We very much would. We very much would.
Bruce: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Bucky: And we could do it on the outside perfectly well.
Bruce: It doesn’t have to be...I just, from my experience, I found it hard to get inside the fabric when it’s still limp.
Bucky: Yeah, I think it may be dangerous to get in.
Bruce: It could, in a big enough wind, it could even be a bit.. .oh, well, anyway...
Mark: I could see being able to pull out.. .to get these poles to lock.
Bruce: Yeah, to be outside might be a lot easier. Yeah.
Mark: You just have to make sure you have a door open to let air come inside.
Bucky: Let...let’s do it from the outside. I don’t see any...I said you can do the whole thing. I can just do a network.
Bruce: You would just do that first.
Bucky: My network will be your dome instead of having to have separate... it can all just be done with separate ropes. You can have a prefabricated net of ropes and then just put in your struts and it stands up.
Bruce: But, instead of the ropes or just for your test?
Mark: Yeah...prototype. -
Bucky: I made a whole sphere at Bear Island and using dacron cord and - wherever you’re going to have a strut, I simply had a complete loop, a rope and my two other struts are going to come in. I really need a piece of paper...I’ll showyou those models later on.
Bucky: They are something very extraordinary...they’re pretty extraordinary. Call that a strut. I can have a tension loop. One piece and the next strut is going to come in.
Mark: And plug into that.
Bucky:, Right here.
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: And the next one’s going to come in here.
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: The point is, I can and did. First I made up a set of these struts and put dacron cord in a complete loop and I spliced it tight and then each time one of these came in and it had its strut...
Mark: Umm hmm.
Bucky: Do you understand?
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: Then I found that I could make a...leaving the struts out, I was able to take this net, make another net coming in here and had a whole set of loops and made the sphere. You see it?
Mark: Umm hmm.
Bucky: And all we had to do was to insert the struts.
Bucky: I...so...so, then there was a dome, a sphere of cord.
Bruce: Be just limp.
Bucky: And all I had to do was insert struts.
Bucky: That will be then, the equivalent of your dome.
Bruce: Skin. Tent skin.
Bruce: Just sitting there. Sure. Sure.
Bucky: This is actually...appears you have a continuous one in one piece of tension where the dome is a tension and it’s a complete thing in its own right and that’s really very highly patentable. You see what I’m saying?
Bucky: Really. Now, you were walking over all that stuff, I’m going to show you something very extraordinary. You bring those 3 spheres out here and put them...line them up. The little one this way, my way. Now, on the floor, no, just behind. Get out 3 triangles there. Now we have...where there are only 3. Only a triangle holds its shape. Then we come to a system and a system divides all the Universe to all the Universe inside and all the Universe outside and the...so, we come to the tetrahedron, being the simplest system in Universe and being all triangulated, it’s the simplest structural system in the Universe. Do you follow me on that?
Bruce: Oh, yeah.
Bucky: And you can have then, instead of 3 struts around a cone, you can have 4 and that gives you the octahedron and you get the octahedron then and it divides the Universe inside and outside, so it’s a system and it is all triangulated so it’s a structural system, also, and the icosahedron then all triangulated, divides the Universe inside and outside. You can’t have 6 equilateral triangles around a corner cause it adds up to 360 degrees. Go on to infinity and will not come back on itself. So, there are only 3 structural systems in the Universe; tetrahedron, octahedron, and icosahedron. So then I take a triangle, equiangular triangle, and have its perpendicular bisectors and the perpendicular bisector can slide through the end.
Mark: Um hmmm.
Bucky: I don’t like you to do it, but you notice there are 3 holes in it. First hole, second hole, and the third hole. So, this makes the spherical icosahedron...this makes the spherical, octahedron, this makes spherical tetrahedron.
Bucky: All the same, this is uniform boundary of scale. We don’t alter in any way the scale. What happens is then, because we have different perpendicular bisectors, we have absolute symmetry and you have 90 degrees impingement on the edge. And you have 60 degree crossings in the center. All right?
Bruce: Um hmm.
Mark: Um hmm.
Bucky: Now, those are absolute constants. Now, put it down again. Now, 6 little triangles, the flat one is the Erasums triangle of 30, 60,
90. You are very familiar.
Mark: Um hmm.
Bucky: Over in the icosahedron, that angle in the corner increases to 36 degrees, but the 60 degrees and the 90...absolutely constant. In the octahedron, the corner increases to 45 degrees and the other is 90 and 60. In the spherical tetrahedron, the corner increases to 60, so, its 60, 90, 60. But, 60 and 90 of the perpendicular impingement, these two angles are absolutely constant, such that the only variable is in here. Now, the math.. .the 6 degrees which you have...you have 20 icosa triangles and 6 little triangles, that’s 120 triangles, so, we have 120 corners of 6 degrees that’s called spherical excess. In spherical trigonometry and in surveying the spherical Earth clearly, the sums of the angles are more than 180 due to spherical excess. The spherical excess is 6 degrees.
Bruce: 720 degrees.
Bucky: In each one of the corners and you divide the whole thing, you can’t have more than the 20 equiangular and they break into the 120 right triangles and that’s the largest number of identical forms other than this, which the Babylonians discovered long ago. So, you have.. .they have, because it’s spherical it can’t hinge, so, they have a positive and a negative triangle so then they’d say 120...60 triangles. So, this is 60, the largest number you can divide unity and have absolutely the same form. 60 positives and 60 negatives and that’s where they got to. The Babylonians were trying to integrate time and geometry, so that’s where you got your 60 minutes and seconds in degrees and you got 60 minutes and seconds in hours, hoping they were going to get the thing together and that’s where the 60—ness came from. This has been known for a very, very long time. The maximum subdivision of unity is into this 120 rights and lefts. They actually played a very powerful part in synergetics. You find ’Synergetics II’ explains the whole Einstein’s equation as you go from matter in radiation and radiation back into matter. It’s tied up with these same 60. Now, the spherical excess, over these of 6 degrees and because you have 120 triangles, 6 degrees times 120 is...
Bruce; 720. You got to have that.
Bucky: So, now we come to the octahedron and we have 8 triangles with 6 little ones so that’s 48 and 48 times 15 degrees.
Bruce: I’m going to say 720.
Bruce: Although I’m not multiplying because I know the answer is 720. (Laughter)
Bucky: So, the spherical tetrahedron, you have 4 triangles faces with 60... that’s 24 little triangles and the corners are each 30 degrees more, and 30 times 24 is 720. So, the difference between polyhedra and sphere is exactly 720. And 720 is the name of the tetrahedron that’s the number of the sum of the angles of the tetrahedron. So, the difference between planar systems, polyhedra and spheres is always 720, one tetrahedron. When we take the icosa itself and want to open it out flat or you want to take any animal and make a rug, you cut sinuses and the sum of the angles of all the sinuses when you go from a closed system to flat is always 720 degrees. So, the difference between really flat and infinity and a system is one tetrahedron. So, one more tetrahedron will give you the sphere. This does away completely with any necessity for using pi. You find that the surface of a sphere is always 4 great circles — 4 great circles...the surface of a sphere is always 4 times the area of one great circle of the sphere. Did you know that?
Bruce: The surface of the sphere is 4 times the area of the great circle?
Bucky: The great circle of the sphere. This is a very old time fundamental. And as a consequence then, we get the spherical tetrahedron, its triangles are simply unity and you don’t have to have any pi in there at all. Since pi cannot be resolved, nature cannot use anything that can’t be resolved, so nature is not using pi. Really...now you understand why my map is such a minimum...is absolutely...holds its symmetry...all it does these 120 little local pinches, 120 6 degree pinches.
Bucky: That’s why there is no reasonable distortion relative shape or size.
Bruce: Yeah. We’ve known that for 40 years. We’ve had your map for 40 years. Bucky We’ve never had the mechanics of it. I think it is really beautiful this way.
Bruce: Do you have these written down? Do you mind if I write these down? Unity verses the length of these holes.
Bucky: Very easy.
Bruce: Do you have it right in your head?
Bucky: No, no.
Bruce: Can I just measure apd write them down?
Bucky: Very easy to do your spherical trig.
Bruce: Yeah, I can do it, I’m sure.
Bucky: Very, very quick.
Bruce: I’ve got a bunch of these...I’ve made lots of these models, all of your models. For 10 years.
Bucky: But you haven’t done this!
Bruce:. I haven’t done this. I never saw this.
Bucky: Nobody ever saw this.
Mark: That’s beautiful.
Mark: Is this new?
Bucky: Yeah. I just got 32 of these and put them together.
Bruce: Yeah, he just said nobody ever saw it before. Really nice. Real nice.
Bucky: When you get these new break—throughs they really suddenly become so sublime. Then everybody...you....sort of feels like they always knew it.
Bruce: Incidentally, when I sent you the letter, did you get the ball that I made for you? You never saw the ball that I made?
Bucky: I don’t think so. You wrote the letter to Philadelphia?
Bucky: Well, it must be there.
Bruce: I asked Shirley. She said she didn’t see it, either. Oh well, I’ll send you another.
Bucky: What was the ball doing?
Bruce: Oh, it’s one of these...
Bruce: No, it’s icosahedron — 6 strip. Only the main 6. Only these.
Bucky: Those are the 15 Great Circles.
Bruce: Well, where are the 6? This is a...
Bucky: The perpendicular of one is the edge of the next one in icosa.
Bruce: These right here.
Bucky: Any edge becomes the perpendicular bisector.
Bruce: Yeah, I’m not on the edges, it’s these. It’s the ones that go through middle, middle, middle — 6.
Bucky: Oh, that’s the 6 Great Circles.
Bruce: Yeah, the 6 Great Circles.
Bruce: But, I have velcro...
Bruce: Velcro. Do you know velcro? You have any velcro?
Bucky: I don’t think I’ve got any...
Bruce: You know.
Mark: A fastener.
Bruce: It’s a fastener. It sticks together.
Bucky: Yeah, yeah. Right, right. Very good.
Bruce: At the crossing. So you just take them apart and put them together.
Bruce: You didn’t get it. I’ll send you one.
Bucky: I’m now making what I call the deresonated tensegrity spheres. I’m convinced it’s a new era in tensegrity because everything is just where it wants to be...incredible strength. It is automatically basket weaved because this gives over that on, this goes under so this is a very simple pinning thing, I can make any size, so we’re working now with a 50 and 60 foot residence. A dome within a dome.
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: This deresonated tensegrity — it has by far the greatest strength in all history and tremendously simple because it’s simply just pinning.
Bruce: So, does the strut have a depth to it like that?
Bucky: We could put up one like this and then stretch the tent to it, of course. Absolutely rigid.
Bruce: Buc, the time to pitch the tent is critical. It must pitch very fast.
Bruce: You don’t...you can’t be doing much assembly work.
Bucky: Well, this really does pin together incredibly fast. And you can
pull your tent out when they do it. Fantastic strength, anyway.
If you’re some place where you’re worried about wind, you could have
a very fast tie down to a rock, cause everything...you take a
tensegrity, you pull it, it expands, you push it in, it contracts
and it comes right back where you want it to be and just pin it
where it wants to be. I made one at Southern Illinois University,
a 72 footer and used 2 X 4 struts. So, we went through 2 X 4’s in
a column that was the maximum that we could have there and so the
2 X 4’s just sat right there.
Bruce: Yeah, I’ve seen the picture.
Bucky: It was lovely. We pinned it this way and pinned it that way. So, the 2 X 4...it was simply a matter of the slenderness ratio of the column what they could take.
Bruce: How big of a tent do you have in mind, talking about The North Face?
Bucky: I think there must be a...as we began to get into it and you made me the big tent...
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: There was really, suddenly, a group tent then suddenly...you don’t have to bend over and so forth. Do more than the other 5/8th sphere because it’s tremendously comfortable. Little more of a headquarters; you spend a little more time and yet is still extremely economical in the weight sphere as you’re moving places.
Bruce: Maybe a little smaller than that.
Bruce: Maybe a little smaller than that. That was pretty big. That was
Bruce: Maybe about...um...
Bruce: Yeah. Huh?
Mark: Umm hmm.
Bruce: I think for family camping, man and a wife and kids, instead of being in a mobile home, it has to be, you know, maybe 14 feet.
Bucky: We made those Turtle Domes that we had 14 feet.
Bruce: Yes, I remember Turtle Domes.
Mark: Are those the ones we saw up in Canada?
Bucky: They went up pretty fast.
Bruce: Yeah. Not tent fast. Tent has to be faster than that. A tent has to go up faster than a Turtle Dome.
Bruce: Ten minutes.
Bucky: Turtle Dome could be brought down to that but it’s going to weigh more than you want.
Bruce: Yeah, we want to be in poles and fabric, too. We want a skin. Tensegrity skin. That’s what we want. I feel certain of that.
Bucky: Yeah. Well, I’m engaged in making all kinds of models of the deresonated and I’m really confident it is a whole new chapter in geodesic domes. It’s strength is so great, it’s span is unlimited, absolutely unlimited.
Mark: Sir, could you briefly explain again, the deresonated tensegrity?
Mark: I wasn’t listening.
Bucky: Yeah. You have this one here with string. It’s just like a basketball and it really does distribute its loads absolutely evenly. If you tighten up on any of the tension members, just one, take the tuning, the whole sphere changes the tune absolutely evenly. Then, the loads are so evenly distributed around it. So, it has this bounce-ability. You take hold of opposite sides and pull it, the whole thing expands, compresses. Everything is always where it wants to be. So, then we simply have these compression members come in here crossing each...and touching...and then...pin that way and this way take all the string out of it and lock it up where it wants to be. So, all we have is column...column ratios, slenderness ratios. The tension is in the system itself. You getting it?
Mark: I think so, yeah.
Bucky: That’s what I call deresonated...take the spring out of it.
Bruce: So, how do we proceed on this? As a company, The North Face, do we enter into an agreement with Buckminster Fuller?
Bucky: Look out for your rocking chair on that...
Bruce: Oh yeah, I’m sorry.
Mark: Let me get these out of the way.
Bucky: Be nice to my wife, if you would, put all those big spheres back in the corner.
Bucky: Pretty much as you found them.
Bucky: Fairly simple arrangement. She asked me how long they’re going to stay here. They’re so pretty.
Bruce: I think they are pretty.
Bucky: Thank you. I don’t know what to say to you about this, really. The circumstances are such that I am going ahead always.
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: You’re going ahead in your work and I would say, pretty soon I’d be ready...I’m really deeply preoccupied with a 50 foot residence, a dome within the dome...has 3 decks inside and the decks are not supported from the dome structure. Simply octet truss type thing. Thing is, the decks are just looms. In other words, they’d be about half the total area. At any rate, the...Norman Foster, an architect in England who I’d say is the only architect I know in the world who is really using the most advanced technology hardware, using many aircraft.. .he’s using and in fact, he just won the largest architectural competition in the world which was a big Hong Kong bank. He’s using aircraft honeycomb aluminum flooring, so forth. That building, this Hong Kong one, is very...being built in units. I don’t know how many decks there are, maybe 6 decks...they’re getting them prefabricated. In Tokyo and other places and coming on container ships lifted by crane into place.
Bucky: These units have elevator stops only in the unit then within the units there escalators up and down. But, everything, everything is built in; all pipes line up; everything...it’s extraordinary. It’s going to be a very handsome building. Different from anything I’ve ever seen before. Foster, he is...he started building docks for Scandinavian shipping lines. They were taking goods and people out of England down to The Canaries and other places like that and he started building docks and their offices on the docks and he began using ship hardware and airplane hardware then he got interested in buildings on the land at several Universities and using, at this time, the very best aircraft technology…using triangulation and trussing and so forth. At any rate, Norman is now, I would say, the top architect in the world for the moment with that Hong Kong project and he will be building two residences, one for himself and one for me. His wife is also an architect and a partner in the firm. They have a very big firm in London, of course, and so we’re engaged in the 50 foot dome inside a 60 foot. And the...frost depth, 5 feet is about the most you have to allow for until you really get into arctic tundra and frost strikes sideways as well as deep going down, and so by having a 5 foot distance between the inner and outer dome, we don’t have any frost penetration...cold frost from the outside and uses the dome space...no contact between the two, no conductivity which we use for all kinds of building and heating, whatever it may be, but the inner dome revolves, the other dome doesn’t. We wanted to build a...if you wanted to expand the size of your home you simply build another dome outside of that and remove the inner one. Because the inner structure is not supported from the dome. At any rate, this is getting every kind of attention of using the most advanced things we can for autonomy from the space program and so forth. And we’re really busy to do this thing in the most magnificent way it can be built and we’re going to put one here in California and another one would be in England.
Mark: Where in California?
Bucky: I haven’t decided, haven’t decided... First, we were thinking about having it in Maine but I decided it’s impractical. I spend too much more time out this way, so, I’m looking for a good place.
Mark: Move up to the Bay Area. Up around San Francisco where we are.
Bucky: I think Ann would think it would be too cold.
Bruce: It might be a little colder. Bucky, if uh...I’d like to ask you a few questions about housing. I’ve been studying the economics and housing. I’ve studied all your work since 1970, so it’s been 12 years. I’m young, but I’ve been reading your work for 12 years. ‘4—D Time Lock’, you know, I knew what you wrote in 1928, I’ve investigated quite a bit myself, library work, economics, housing...
Bruce: property, value systems in America, I worked with Tony Guilliam. You know Tony’s dome. . .Tony Guilliain. -
Bucky: Yeah, I know him very well, yeah.
Bruce: Have you seen his 50 footer he has in Santa Barbara...in Ojai?
Bruce: In any case, about housing specifically, and economics, do you see any change, any breakthrough, in the immediate future?
Bucky: Like what?
Bruce: The whole economic structure. Owning land, owning a house, financing. You know, I’ve heard you many of times...
Bucky: Have you read ‘Critical Path’?
Bruce: Oh, yes. I’ve read ‘Critical Path’ twice.
Bucky: Then certainly I’m talking about financing. I’m talking about not being sold, not financing...
Bruce: Yeah, I know.
Bucky: only renting.
Bruce: Right. But, then...
Bucky: I really said a very great deal in ‘Critical Path’ about this...
Bruce: Yeah, I’ve read it all twice, but even that is two years ago now, Bucky, since you wrote that. A lot’s happened in the last 2 years...
Bucky: Well, it hasen’t changed very much in the last 55 years.
Bruce: Yeah, and it hasn’t changed since ‘28 at the same time. I agree with you.
Bucky: Autonomy is of the essence.
Bucky: Of the essence. I said that very clearly in ‘Critical Path’.
Bruce: I don’t see, uh...now myself, I rent. I’ve never owned, but I’ve never seen any change in my peer group along that desire. Really, I don’t. I still see that the young people want to own. Do you disagree with that? Maybe you’re not...are you hearing me?
Bruce: You do disagree, then?
Bucky: I simply...no sir…I’ve never found a young person who really wanted to own his own home.
Bruce: Ahhh. I don’t want to own, myself. I don’t particularly want to own.
Bucky: So, the point is that you don’t have to.
Bruce: No, I don’t have to. I’m...I’m very comfortable not owning.
Bucky: If you move to own, you’re going to get enormous capital involvement and get all tied up with banks and everything.
Bruce: But...I don’t see a change, though...I don’t see a change because the economic structure is so set up.. .with incomes...
Bucky: I’ve no use for the economic structure the way it’s set up. It’s all going to crash very quickly.
Bruce: You still...you still maintain, very quickly we will see economic chaos of some magnitude.
Bruce: Which would make...
Bucky: Because the whole point of owning...nobody owns anything!
Bruce: I know.
Bucky: There’s just nothing in Universe that says anybody owns anything.
Bucky: Completely, the big man on the horse with a club and a man on foot and he says it is mine. All the things that are not true are going to go in a hurry. You’ll have a completely different “raison de etre” for living the way you do and so forth.
Bruce: But, to make your house, you and the man in England, you and...
Mark: Norman Foster...
Bruce: Which I’ve heard you say “dome within dome” makes a lot of sense.
Bruce: But, you would have to buy and own that personally, wouldn’t you?
Bucky: In producing prototypes, you always do. You always do, of course. I’m talking about a prototype.
Mark: Is construction underway on that dome? Not yet?
Bruce: Bucky, the other question, just talk about property...
Bucky: ‘It’ll be about 2 years in getting it done.,
Bruce: Just, just property. Now, you’ve had Bear Island in your family since you were born.
Bucky: Yes, I consider it custodianship and not ownership.
Bruce: But, I’ve heard many people suggest that...cause I’ve always talked domes and renting, many people suggest, well, if you didn’t own the land you couldn’t put a structure on it anyway, that maybe we should just lease the land. Or divorce the land from the structure. The structure would be more like a phone.
Bruce: That’s what you see coming?
Bruce: And the ownership of the land itself, do you see that going, too?
Bruce: Completely, even though it is all owned?
Bucky: I think that probably will...people probably will take responsibility or custodianship regarding the land for keeping it in good order. That’s what we’ve done with the Islands. But, all the time, always, it belongs to the world; part of the scenery.
Bruce I’ve never heard you suggest that people not own land.
Bucky: From the very beginning, I’ve said renting. From the very beginning.
Bruce: Yeah, I mean I’ve always heard you say “ownership is becoming onerous” and that we should rent, but to actually...you don’t actually advise...
Bucky: I’ve always said a service industry...
Bruce: Oh yeah, yes, yes I know ‘4—D Timelock’. Okay, well. I hope it
happens soon, I’m sure you do too. But, we do have to have economic
change, fundamental change, before this could happen. Before
people would go to renting. Do you believe that?
Bucky: No, no.
Bruce: You don’t believe that? That’s what I don’t understand. If we don’t have fundamental economic change, the.. .the. . .the economic pressure to own because of the structure in America is overwhelming. I mean all the senators, people writing the laws own, all the Supreme Court judges own, all the business people own.
Bucky: You’re not assuming there is no economic change coming?
Bruce: Well, that’s what I’m saying. Assume fundamental...that’s what you’re saying.
Bucky: You’re assuming there’s no economic change?
Bruce: I’m not sure. Uhh...
Bucky: Why, I’m certainly not.
Bruce: I have a feeling that they...we might be able to run the economic
system another 20 years.
Bucky: How? On what? We’re already...
Bruce: Yeah, on bandaids, emergencies, and...
Bucky: We’re already a hundred billion interest annually without even paying on our debts. We’re completely bankrupt...the government’s completely bankrupt. Whole economic system is bankrupt. Scared to death it’s going to blow up in their face.
Bruce: Um hmm.
Bucky: If they were nice and secure, they would not feel that way.
Bruce: It’s not that I think they are secure...it’s just that I...I think that uhh...
Bucky: You really haven’t read ‘Critical Path’ with any conviction that I’m making any sense.
Bruce: Oh, yes I have. I’ve read it completely and I’ve read everything you’ve written completely many times except ‘Synergetics II’ which I’m reading on...I’m getting there. ‘Synergetics I’ I’ve read cover to cover. ‘4—D Timelock’, all your articles. I’ve followed your work for 12 years.
Bucky: ‘Operating Manual’?
Bruce: ‘Operating Manual’ many times, everything.
Bucky: Do you know how I identify wealth?
Bruce: Yes, I do and I tell you I’m a renter myself. I’ve followed your advice very closely. And I’ve gone back and studied my economics, minutely, tried to understand business, property, wealth, superficial wealth, not true wealth. But, I don’t see the change as imminent, necessarily. I don’t necessarily see that it has to happen soon. Because of the financial problem is so vast, it’s been this way for a long time. It seems that you might be able to go another 15—20 years. People owning homes, suburbia expanding, I...I don’t know, maybe it’s just...
Bucky: I don’t...I’m just quite certain the Universe can’t carry on that
Bruce: Umm hmm.
Bucky: Do you know my curves of acceleration?
Bruce: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Bucky: They really are 4th power.
Bruce: That’s true...4th power. So, how does the industry emerge? We
always get to that.
Mark: With respect to this structure which we were talking about earlier, how would you like to work?
Bucky: I just want to keep on doing what I’m doing and I feel that if you’d like me to do a structure, I will design one for you. So, if you invite me to design a Buckminster Fuller structure for you along these lines, I’d be glad to.
Mark: We’d very much like that.
Bucky: Yeah. So, you...you’re in no hurry about it, so, when you see fit, if you want to do it, just notify me that you’d like to do it.
Mark: Well, I think Bruce and I are here...Bruce’s presence and my presence here today indicate that we’re anxious to move ahead as soon as possible.
Bucky: I...I’m not going to be able to increase the size of my staff and I have just one person who’ll be working on this with me. It would be Amy. . .Amy Edmonson. Amy Edmonson is a beautiful mathematician. She uh...graduated from Harvard Summa Cum Laude in 3 years. This would have been her, graduation year this year, but she graduated, came out the year before last. She was captain of the Harvard sailing team. She’s been...she’s one of the most young champions of sailing in the house. Very extraordinarily organized for this kind of work. Great friend of Walter Cronkite of New York and gets to go cruising with him. At any rate, she is really a top sailor and has a real feel for tension and compression and so on. So, if you want me to do...write me a letter and say how much you’re...you intend to pay me for it and we’ll proceed.
Bruce: What is appropriate? I mean, is $1OOOO a fair price?
Bucky: I would think so.
Bruce: You think that would be a fair price?
Mark: Do you have any prior agreement with Kelty? Because we’re also friends with the people from Kelty.
Bucky: No, I don’t have any agreement with them. I did say that I would undertake to do something. The more...the further I went on...I’ve given them nothing, so far.
Mark: I see.
Bucky: And they’ve paid nothing so far…so, there’s no money.
Mark: I see.
Bucky: I began to feel that this was really...I felt that it was immoral for me to be doing this for them because I started off with you.
Mark: Well, we appreciate that very much.
Bucky: That’s why I got in touch, so, I’ve really just gone off the track with them. Yeah, they’re very nice people.
Bucky: Or I wouldn’t have done it at all.
Mark: We could assist in building prototypes, of course.
Bucky: Yeah, of course, of course. All I’m really saying...I’m giving you the design. I expect you to do the prototype.
Bucky: I must be very practical.
Mark: Yes, I understand.
Bucky: I would think about it being in the class with say a little larger than the usual back packer puts up for one night stands in mountain climbing.
Mark: Well, that’s precisely the sort of size that we’re interested in moving into next.
Bucky: Yeah, and he’s going to stay there for a while.
Mark: Yes, Umm hmm.
Location/Date: Pacific Pallisades Home 10/11/1982
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