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5. Other Inventions

Fuller was a tinkerer and made many small tools both to explain his principles and to perform useful tasks. All of his patented inventions can be found in his book Inventions: The Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller. His second most esteemed invention is ``tensegrity'' or tensional-integrity structures (See section Who was Kenneth Snelson and what was his role in the invention of tensegrities? for Kenneth Snelson's role in this.).

5.1 What is a tensegrity model?

``The word 'tensegrity' is an invention: a contraction of 'tensional integrity.'

[From Synergetics [700.011]]

``Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional member behaviors. Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder.''

[From Blaine A. D'Amico.]

Fuller stated as a general principle that ``tension and compression always and only coexist.'' There is no way to have tension without corresponding compressional forces in the structure. A tensegrity is a continuous tension - discontinuous compression structure. This is as distinguished from traditional structuring which is continuous compression and discontinuous tension.

[From Kirby Urner]

Tensegrity structures employ tension primarily and compression secondarily. In pure tensegrity, compression members (i.e. metal rods) do not touch one another but provide rigidity within a network of tensed cables. Not only domes, but towers (and many sculptures) have successfully employed tensegrity principles. For Fuller, tensegrities manifested his philosophy: that nature uses tension primarily and compression secondarily (whereas humans often misguidedly do the reverse). Although he developed geodesic structures for the Marine Corps and Strategic Air Command, none of these were ``tensegrities'' exactly. Tensegritoy, available from most museum giftshops and teacher supply catalogs, admirably teaches about tensegrity.

How to Build Tensegrities?

[From Daryl Bunce]

To me, one of the best tools for help with building Tensegrity systems was/is An Introduction to Tensegrity by Anthony Pugh, LOC: TA658.2 P85x, copyright 1976, University of California Press, ISDN: 0-520-02996-8 (cloth/hard) or 0-520-03055-9 (paper), 121pp.

I suggest reading the first few pages of Appendix A then running out and purchasing some .75" dowel (see below) then start on page 1.

For struts: dowel (wooden rods) 3 feet long (standard US size), with a diameter = .75 inches. Cut with a fine-toothed saw into 9 inch lengths. Repeat until happy with amount (you'll need more, eventually). Take some 18-gauge wire brads (those nails with virtually no head), about an inch to 1.5 inches long and blunt the points. Warning: Use of steel nails, pins, etc. can be dangerous. Pound two nails into each strut end, with a wide gap between them and at least .5 inches protruding from the wood:

                               /  -------o
     STRUT (yeah, right)      /   -------o   two brads, repeat for other end

Repeat procedure for all ends of struts. Using rubber bands (#14, 2 inches, or #12,1.5 inches) hung over one brad/strut, you should be able to model some Tensegrities. BTW: If there were only one brad at each end, the rubber bands have more of a tendency to slip off.

If your rubber bands are still slipping off, stretch one from one end to the other of the same strut before modeling. When you are ready to incorporate this strut, unhook this band, slide a band from the other strut onto a brad on this strut, and hook the original band back on over the new one. (Follow that?)

Most of the above was summarized from Mr. Pugh's book in one way or another.

[From chris@COGNET.UCLA.EDU]

There is a company called Plastruct which makes little plastic components for building various sorts of models. They are located in the City of Industry (I think (greater L.A. area)), California. Any good hobby or architectural supply shop in your area should have a catalog. I warn you, however, that their models are somewhat limited and the plastic tubes used for struts tend to split.

There is also a company in England somewhere which actually owns the design upon which the Plastruct models are based. The components they make are somewhat larger, I believe, and perhaps of higher quality.

If anyone is really interested in more details, I can dig up the names and numbers for you. In general, a good resource for this kind of information is the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, which can be found in many large libraries.

[From Michael Justice, 23 Mar 1992]

Real Goods sells something called a ``tensegritoy,'' which looks kinda cute. To quote from their latest micro-catalog:


        Tensegritoy is an ingenious new construction puzzle that
        provides fun and intellectual challenge for children over
        ten.  Based on R. Buckminster Fuller's ideas of tensegrity
        (tension and integrity) over 100 intriguing shapes can be
        built.  The structures can bounce, roll, or seemingly float
        in the air.  With the colorful components you can construct
        a basic four-sided figure, a helix or a geodesic dome, or
        explore architecture and the arrangement of DNA!  The 32-page
        illustrated instruction booklet provides lots of how-to ideas.
        This is truly an affordable learning experience.
        90-412 TENSEGRITOY . . . . $29
Real Goods is a yuppie ``alternative energy / environmental / whatever-we- can-make-a-buck-on'' :-) mail-order house. 1-800-762-7325 for orders.

[From Patrick G. Salsbury]

Well, Tensegrity Systems, Inc., manufactures the Tensegritoy (tm) and I've seen models built from combined sets that are a meter or more in diameter.

[From Jim Flanagan]

I have found that the cheapest/easiest method for making tensegrity struts is to buy thousands of bamboo skewers, chop off the pointy bits, and bind two (or more, depending on the tension in the model) together with rubber bands thus:


then take another rubber band insert it between the two sticks at one end, then with half a turn drag it down to the other end and hook it in there. One completed strut. With practice one person can make a good deal of these in an evening. A hint for keeping the structure together while building is to use another band to keep a connection firm (sometimes a connection will slip. Spectacular explosions attest to the amount of tension is held in one of these structures...).


If you use tan colored bands and tan sticks the aesthetic is better in my opinion. If you twist the bands more than once (but an odd number) you get more tension (which is necessary for higher freq. structures).

[From Mitch Amiano]


Check out a good boating supply shop. They make use of a number of tensile materials and fasteners.

Tension members:

Boating supply shops carry in bulk what might cost you $$$ to get pre-cut: rope, cables, and that elastic cloth cordage (like the kind used in the Tensegritoy). The elastic cord cost about $13 for a 50 foot roll.

Tough Tension members:

Nylon coated steel cable, 3/32 inch, with crimpable aluminum cable sleeves. Use the sleeves to make loops in the cable ends. Cable can be accurately measured by looping around two nails set in a block of wood and pulled tight. Sleeves can be crimped on one at a time. The nylon coating makes it less likely to have wire splinters, and makes for a neater finish.

Taking up slack:

Tiny turnbuckles. expensive at >50 cents a pop. Jim Flanagan's idea to increase the tension of the rubber bands by twisting them will work here, too. You just won't be able to twist up very much. Many forms of strain relief hardware can also be used to give springiness to inflexible cables.

Compression members:

Aluminum or brass tubing, 3/8 inch diameter. Aluminum costs about $1 a foot, while brass is about twice as expensive. Neither is hard to cut, given a midget pipe cutter, about $5.

Fastening members together:

A hollow tube may be plugged with a variety of screw anchors, both metal and plastic. Then a small bolt or screw stock can be securely mounted. Some washers are all thats needed to complete the connection if you chose to use bolts. For screw stock, you also need nuts, and can use round-ended chromed nuts for a finer finishing. For both, cable or rope loops can simply be looped on. Make sure the loop is smaller than the washer, or it might slip.

[From Mitch Amiano]

Has anyone seen the in-line cable clamps used for utility-pole guy wires? The clamps do not have any perpendicular bolts, and have a U loop on the ground side (which is tied down). The steel cable goes right through the unit unbroken and untwisted, leaving a small stub of cable out the U loop end. The cable has no connection with the U loop itself - that is part of the connector housing. Finally, the unit is about 6 or 7 (~15cm) inches long, cone shaped, and about an inch and 3/4 thick (~8cm).

The reason I ask, is because it appears to be an ideal connector for a variety of tensegrities - one which I had conceptualized but for which I had not found a good implementation. Does anyone know if similar units exist for other size factors (esp. for desktop modeling), or know if the internal design relies on the use of pincers/teeth to grip? (The latter would make the design less attractive for monofilament lines.)

              I      <---- steel cable
            /   \
           /     \     <---- conical housing
          /       \
         /         \
         |         |
       /-|_________|-\  <--- apparent section of housing
       |  \___ ___/  |
       |      I  <-- | <<------- end of steel cable, protruding
       |      I      |
       |             |
        \           /     <----- U loop affixed to housing
[From H. Jeffrey Rosen]

In-line cable fixtures are commonly stocked by manufacturers and distributors of wire rope. A quick scan of my yellow pages at that category identified a source of many sizes of the U-bolt style clamps used for antenna guy lines. Surely such providers exist in most areas, and can steer you to the particular gadget you seek.

If not, here's the number of the place I contacted:


Who was Kenneth Snelson and what was his role in the invention of tensegrities?

Fuller began writing, speaking and thinking about coexistent tension and compression in the 1920's - see his first book 4D Time Lock. He complained of having no good model to explain these principles. Then Snelson attended several of Fuller's lectures at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1948. In the winter of 1948 Snelson built the first tensegrity structure consisting of two ``X''-shaped figures one suspended above the other in a sea of tension. He showed Fuller this model in the summer of 1949. After this initial contact both men developed the concept of tensegrity in unique and independent ways. Snelson designed large magnificent tensegrity sculptures while Fuller built large tensegrity spheres to demonstrate his synergetics (at that time he called it Energetic Geometry). Both Fuller and Snelson patented their structures.

I think the quote below shows that both Fuller and Snelson acknowledged each other's contribution. Given Fuller's disdain for footnotes and other forms of formal citations, he occasionally implied more credit than is his due. However, it seems to me that he documented Snelson's contribution sufficiently. Claims that Fuller stole Snelson's work are unsubstantiated. Also, claims by some of Fuller's admirers that Snelson stole from Fuller, ignore the breakthrough in design that Snelson contributed.

[From Kenneth Snelson, an Exhibition organized by Douglas G. Schultz; essay by H.N. Fox, p.23]

``In a letter from Fuller to Snelson dated December 22, 1949, Fuller states, 'In all my public lectures I tell of your original demonstration of discontinuous-pressure- (com-pressure) and continuous tension structural advantage; - in which right makes light [?] in a prototype structure, - the ready reproduction of which properly incorporated in fundamental structures, may advance the spontaneous good will and understanding of mankind by many centuries. The event was one of those 'it happens' events, but demonstrates how the important events happen where the atmosphere is most favorable. If you had demonstrated this structure to an art audience it would not have rung the bell it rang in me, who had been seeking this structure in Energetic Geometry. That you were excited by the later E.G. [Energetic Geometry], into spontaneous articulation of the solution, also demonstrates the importance of good faith of colleagues of this frontier. The name Kenneth Snelson will come to be known as a true pioneer of the realized good life and good will...' ''

5.2 What are ``cloud nines?''

[``Cloud nines'' are floating geodesic spheres. The following extract from a paper posted to GEODESIC by Robert T. Bowers explains the idea.] ``When considering a geodesic sphere, the weight of the sphere is a function of the surface of the sphere. The amount the sphere is lifted by warm air is a function of the volume of the sphere. In mathematical terms, weight is a function of the radius squared, while volume is a function of the radius cubed. This is very significant. Even as the radius of a sphere increases, thus increasing the sphere's weight, the lift of the sphere increases more. If you image a sphere that could grow larger, as the sphere gained a little weight, it would gain much lift.

``Buckminster Fuller proposed that as spheres of great size are considered, the amount of air enclosed grows huge compared to the weight of the sphere. Of a sphere with a radius of 1320 feet, the weight of the enclosed air is 1000 times greater than the weight of the sphere's structure. If that volume of air was heated only one degree, the sphere would begin to float!

``Of course, domes of even greater sizes would be required if that sphere were to carry any additional weight. But it is not inconceivable that floating geodesic spheres could carry aloft entire communities. Perhaps the concept of a floating dome of one half a mile diameter is too much for most people to seriously consider. Regardless, it does demonstrate the scope of projects that are made possible with geodesic domes.'' -Robert T. Bowers Fuller quote from I Seem To Be A Verb

Came across this small description which I thought might interest some people who haven't seen it before ...

Geodesic spheres larger than half-a-mile in diameter can be floated in the air, like clouds. Draped with polyethylene curtains -- to retard night-time air intake -- the spheres would be light enough to remain aloft, at preferred altitudes.

``Cloud nines'' one mile in diameter could house thousands of people, whose weight would be negligible. Passengers could pass from ``cloud'' to ``cloud,'' or from ``cloud'' to ground, as the ``clouds'' float around the Earth or are anchored to mountain tops. The ``clouds'' could become food factories by impounding sunlight.''

-- David Paschall-Zimbel

5.3 What is ``dymaxion?''

``Dymaxion'' is a name coined by a friend [ED: an advertising man actually] of Bucky's which is a contraction of the words ``DYnamic'' (or DYnamism, depending on your sources), ``MAXimum,'' and ``ION;'' three words that he noticed Bucky used often in his speech when describing things.

Dymaxion, and also 4-D (4th Dimension) became trademarks of Bucky's and were frequently used on his products: -The Dymaxion 4-D House -The Dymaxion Car -The Dymaxion Deployment Unit (war-relief housing) -The Dymaxion Dwelling Machine (An improvement on the Dymaxion 4-D House) - Patrick G. Salsbury

5.4 What was the ``Dymaxion Car?''

``The Dymaxion Car was a teardrop-shaped (least air resistance), 3-wheeled, rear-wheel (single) steering, 21 foot long, Aluminum bodied auto, designed by Bucky to achieve maximum output and service with minimum material input. It was about 6 feet tall (Kinda like a big van), seated the driver and 10 passengers, weighed less than 1000 lbs., went 120 miles/hr on a 90 horsepower engine, and got between 30-50 miles to the gallon of gas! (Depending on your sources, again.)

``It was eventually supposed to be developed into a flying vehicle, held aloft on ``jet-stilts'' (downward facing thrusters of some sort) so as to make all of ``Spaceship Earth'' accessible to humans and make it so they could have a house ANYWHERE (on top of a mountain, in a desert, etc. [his Dymaxion Houses were self-sustaining, and didn't need to be tied into powersewer/water lines]/) and still get around to go to work or whatnot. But only the car portion of the ``Dymaxion Omnidirectional Human Transport'' (Flying car) was developed, because at the time of development (1933-4), Jet technology was either non-existent, or not capable of the task.'' - Patrick G. Salsbury

There is a Dymaxion car in the William F. Harrah Automobile Museum in Reno, NV. Very strange-looking vehicle indeed, and I was surprised to find out that it was from the 1930's. -Dan Howell

5.5 What is a ``fog gun?''

The ``fog gun'' was an invention Bucky developed as a water saving alternative to the wastefulness of showers. While Bucky was in the navy, he noted that, while standing on the deck of a ship, in the spray and mist of the sea, nothing seems to stay on your skin for very long. Not even grease. He reasoned that it must have something to do with the abrasive action of the tiny water droplets, so he developed a device that atomized the water (like a perfume bottle with the little bulb that you squeeze to get perfume mist) and ejected it at high speed. He dubbed this the ``fog gun'' and found that it worked very well for cleaning a person off without soap (I'm not sure how he did hair, though) and without wasting a lot of water. (The ``gun'' could clean a family of four with 1 PINT of water!) -Pat Salsbury

5.6 What was Fuller's ``floating city?''

Around 1967, Bucky Fuller was put in charge of the Triton project for the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (You know, one of the current gov't departments under investigation for all sorts of scandals! ;^) )

Triton was a concept for an anchored floating city that would be located just offshore and connected with bridges and such to the mainland. It was a collection of tetrahedronal structures with apartments and such. The model looked very interesting!

You can see some photos of the model in ``The Artifacts of Buckminster Fuller,'' along with technical drawings of just about everything else he ever designed! :) -Pat Salsbury

[Typed in by Charles Nicoll] Reprinted from Critical Path, (1981, St Martin's Press) by Buckminster Fuller, p. 332.

``In the early 1960s I was commissioned by a Japanese patron to design one of my tetrahedronal floating cities for Tokyo Bay.

``Three-quarters of our planet Earth is covered with water, most of which may float organic cities.

``Floating cities pay no rent to landlords. They are situated on the water, which they desalinate and recirculate in many useful and nonpolluting ways. They are ships with all an ocean ship's technical autonomy, but they are also ships that will always be anchored. They don't have to go anywhere. Their shape and its human-life accommodations are not compromised, as must be the shape of the living quarters of ships whose hull shapes are constructed so that they may slip, fishlike, at high speed through the water and high seas with maximum economy.

``Floating cities are designed with the most buoyantly stable conformation of deep-sea bell-buoys. Their omni-surface-terraced, slop-faced, tetrahedronal structuring is employed to avoid the lethal threat of precipitous falls by humans from vertically sheer high-rising buildings.

``The tetrahedron has the most surface with the least volume of all polyhedra. As such, it provides the most possible 'outside' living. Its sloping external surface is adequate for all its occupants to enjoy their own private, outside, tiered-terracing, garden homes. These are most economically serviced from the common, omni-nearest-possible center of volume of all polyhedra.

``All the mechanical organics of a floating city are situated low in its hull for maximum stability. All the shopping centers and other communal service facilities are inside the structure; tennis courts and other athletic facilities are on the top deck. When suitable, the floating cities are equipped with 'alongside' or interiorly lagooned marinas for the safe mooring of the sail- and powerboats of the floating-city occupants. When moored in protected waters, the floating cities may be connected to the land by bridgeways.

``In 1966 my Japanese patron died, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development commissioned me to carry out full design and economic analysis of the floating tetrahedronal city for potential U.S.A use. With my associates I completed the design and study as well as a scaled-down model. The studies showed that the fabricating and operating costs were such that a floating city could sustain a high standard of living, yet be economically occupiable at a rental so low as to be just above that rated as the 'poverty' level by HUD authorities. The secretary of HUD sent the drawings, engineering studies, and economic analysis to the Secretary of the Navy, who ordered the Navy's Bureau of Ships to analyze the project for its 'water-worthiness,' stability, and organic capability. The Bureau of Ships verified all our calculations and found the design to be practical and 'water-worthy.' The Secretary of the Navy then sent the project to the US Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks, where its fabrication and assembly procedures and cost were analyzed on a basis of the 'floating city' being built in a shipyard as are aircraft carriers and other vessels. The cost analysis of the Navy Department came out within 10 percent of our cost - which bore out its occupiability at rental just above the poverty class.

``At this point the city of Baltimore became interested in acquiring the first such floating city for anchorage just offshore in Chesapeake Bay, adjacent to Baltimore's waterfront. At this time President Lyndon Johnson's Democratic party went out of power. President Johnson took the model with him and installed it in his LBJ Texas library. The city of Baltimore's politicians went out of favor with the Nixon administration, and the whole project languished. The city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and other cities of the U.S.A are interested in the possibility of acquiring such floating cities. Chances of one being inaugurated are now improving.

``In relation to such floating cities it is to be noted that they are completely designed under one authority, and when they become obsolete, they are scrapped and melted and the materials go into subsequent production of a greatly advanced model whose improvements are based on earlier experiences as well as the general interim advances of all technology.

``There are three types of floating cities: There is one for protected harbor waters, one for semiprotected waters, and one for unprotected deep-sea installations. The deep-sea type is supported by submarine pontoons positioned under the turbulence, with their centers of buoyancy 100 feet below the ocean's surface. Structural columns rise from the submarine pontoons outwardly through the water to support the floating city high above the crests of the greatest waves, which thus pass innocuously below the city's lowest flooring, as rivers flow under great bridges. The deap-sea, deeply pontooned floating cities will be as motionless in respect to our planet as are islanded or land-based cities.

``There are also deep-sea spherical and cylindrical geodesic floating cities whose hulls are positioned entirely below the ocean surface turbulence. Only their vertical entrance towers penetrate outwardly through the disturbed surface waters. The occupants of submarine cities with their vertical towers penetrating outwardly above water can be serviced by helicopters landing on the tower-top platforms. Such pontooned or hulled submarine cities also can provide safe mid-ocean docking for atomic-powered cargo- and passenger-carrying submarine transports. With their submarine hulls locked together below the turbulence, a safe passageway can be opened between them.

``Even in mild weather docking cannot be done on the open water surface of the ocean. Even the mildest 'old-sea' or ground swells would roll any two ocean ships' great tonnages into disastrous hull-smashing clashes. Relative mass attraction is proportional to the product of the masses of the interchanges. When any two oceangoing steel vessels come within 'critical proximity,' their interattraction is fourfolded every time the distance between them is halved. This chain-attraction-increasing force pulls them sideways toward one another, ultimately to touch and chew up one another's skins - that is, unless one is maneuvered in time backward or forward away from the other. Land harbors are essential for surface docking or inter-tie-up of ships of any size. There are relatively few big-ship harbors in the world. This fact, and the world-around scarcity of such good harbors as Athens' Piraeus, France's Cherbourg, Italy's Venice, the U.S.A's New York, or Tokyo's Yokohama, have greatly affected the geographical patterning of world history. The new ability to transfer cargoes at sea could completely alter world economic balances and could bring ships once more into economic competition with airplanes. The recent decades' development of seventy-knot submerged speed of the great atomic submarines, complemented by floating cities, could herald the beginning of a new era of subsurface oceanic traffic.

``In due time small cruising yachts also will be able to sail or power around the world in safe, one-day runs from one protected floating city's harbor to the next.''

[From Jim Fiegenschue, 12 Oct 1993]

If you are interested in studying and solving some of the practical problems of floating habitations (such as anchoring, survival of storms, etc.) you might contact Sten Sjostrand, the architect who designed The Saigon Floating Hotel. The first and to my knowledge still the only floating resort hotel in the world, it was built in Singapore for about $22 million in 1987-8 US dollars. Another $5.5 million of furniture and accessories were added, plus a $2.5 million special anchor system, so this is a serious professional project. The 7-story hotel has 200 guest rooms, a lavish lobby, a swimming pool(!), a tennis court, a night club, a sauna, a gymnasium, small shops, several restaurants, two cocktail bars, a library, fully equipped conference rooms, post office, sewage treatment plants, facilities for mooring sail boats and yachts, an underwater observatory, and a marine laboratory. Originally opened for business as the Four Seasons Barrier Reef Resort in 1988 over the Australian Great Barrier Reef, it was a big draw for scuba divers. All waste- disposal machinery is sealed off completely to protect the environment. It is currently owned by the Japanese company EIE, who operate it offshore Saigon.

You can possibly reach Sten Sjostrand through the Atlantis Project, which is currently raising funds to build a floating city/nation to be called Oceania. Their newsletter, called Chain Breaker, is located at 4132 S. Rainbow Blvd, Suite 387; Las Vegas, Nevada 89103. Phone: 702 897-8418.

[From Bill Kovarik]

There's a book called ``Engineers Dreams'' which depicts a floating city as a mid-Atlantic airport plan from the 1940s. Sometime in the 1970s the University of Hawaii designed a floating city, and you can get the book on interlibrary loan. I know the Virginia Tech architecture school library has it, if you can't find it anywhere else. Both the airport and the Hawaii ideas dealt with structural engineering problems primarily.

There are important reasons to consider floating cities as resources for the not too distant future, I believe.

A very important need is for factories for processing renewable energy resources which would be too expensive or too ecologically disruptive to collect on land. Of course, the most problematic aspect of renewable energy is its dispersed nature. It must be collected and concentrated, and the process of doing that can raise costs to a non-competitive level with fossil energy.

For many decades, biochemical engineers have looked to marine biomass resources as being possible to cultivate in enormous quantities without creating ecological disruptions. As early as 1918 the Pasteur Institute was engaged in the study of renewable liquid fuels like methyl and ethyl alcohol from kelp. They were able to produce about 10 gallons of fuel alcohol per ton using an acid hydrolysis method. This is very old technology; better methods are available today.

In the late 1970s and early 80s tremendous new attention focused on renewable resources, and marine biomass was the subject of a good deal of study. One of the most important was the Marine Biomass Energy Conversion Technology Research Committee of the Japan Ocean Industries Association. In one study they found that a 50 kg / m2 per year was the average productivity of both Sargassum and Laminaria type kelp. I don't know if they investigated the various energy production scenarios or what their final figures are, but you could probably find out pretty quickly.

If we converted kelp to renewable liquid energy at the rate of 10 gallons per ton, what do we get? Lets assume one ton (1,000 kg) is grown on 20 square meters and produces 10 gallons. To make a million gallons we need an area of 200 square kilometers. To make a billion gallons would take a 2,000 square mile area, and to replace just the gasoline used in the U.S. (100 billion gallons a year) with alcohol from marine biomass would take a 40,000 square kilometer area -- around the size of Ireland and Cuba. Of course, more efficient processes and enhanced production could decrease the necessary size, but there would be little problem finding space in the ocean for an extra 40,000 kilometers somewhere. You would hope that the final cost of this liquid fuel was within a tolerable range, lets say $1.20 (US prices) to $5.00 per gallon (European fuel prices).

OK, what about the waste products. When the kelp is hydrolized we get this goopy green leftover glop -- some of it could go to other chemical processes and some could be returned to the sea, along with treated sewage from the city, to fertilize the kelp beds for future harvests.

How do you support the rest of the city? Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) for electricity and fish farming and hydroponics for food, other light manufacturing, some mining of deep sea minerals -- those are possibilities.

What is impossible to make at sea? Probably heavy industrial processes, such as steel mills, aluminum refining, textiles, etc.

Who would live there? Given the need for dignified employment in many developing nations, I would think that you could find millions of people willing to become ``kelpers.'' If developing nations would divert financial resources out of the petroleum sector and into sustainable development, it could vastly raise the standard of living of some of the poorest people on earth and solve a large portion of the environmental crisis at the same time.

You can see (squint hard, now) some of the visions of Huxley or Fuller or even Dwayne Andreas in play here, and we can see the outline of a real solution to the world energy / environmental crisis in the development of floating cities that produce renewable energy and food.

[From Steve Mather]

One possibility in ``floating cities'' that I recently came across is the ``Mining'' Magnesium. Allegedly it can be obtained from sea water. Volvo developed a car back in the eighties (unfortunately they only developed it, it never went into production) that was made of a significant amounts of magnesium for its weight and because it avoided damaging mining practices. It's called the Volvo LCP 2000. Allegedly it gets anywhere from 56 to 81 (tops, 100) mpg, and, being a diesel, will run on nearly anything. For more info write Bob Austin of Volvo of America Corporation, Rockleigh, New Jersey, 07647; or call (201) 768-7300.

5.7 What was the Old Man's River City Project (circular cities)?

This was Fuller's design science approach to solving the housing crisis in East St. Louis.

Here are some excerpts from BF's CRITICAL PATH:

``For eminently mobile man, cities have become obsolete in terms of yesterday's functions - warehousing both new and formerly manufactured goods and housing immigrant factory workers...

``Old Man's River City, undertaken for East St. Louis, Illinois takes its name from the song first sung by Paul Robeson fifty years ago, which dramatized the life of Afro-American blacks who lived along the south-of-St. louis banks of the Mississippi River...

``I originally came to East St. Louis to discuss the design and possible realization of the Old Man River's City, having been asked to do so by East St. Louis community leaders themselves... It is moon-crater-shaped: the crater's truncated cone top opening is a half-mile in diameter, rim-to-rim, while the truncated mountain itself is a mile in diameter at its base ring. The city has a one-mile-diameter geodesic, quarter-sphere transparent umbrella mounted high above it to permit full, all-around viewing below the umbrella's bottom perimeter. The top of the dome roof is 1000 feet high. The bottom rim of the umbrella dome is 500 feet above the surrounding terrain, while the crater-top esplanade, looks 250 feet radially inward from the unbrella's bottom, is at the same 500-foot height. From the esplanade the truncated mountain cone slopes downwardly, inward and outward, to ground level 500 feet below.

``The moon crater's inward and outward, exterior-surface slopes each consist of fifty terraces - the terrace floors are tiered vertically ten feet above or below one another. All the inwardly, downwardly sloping sides of the moon crater's terraced cone are used for communal life; its outward-sloping, tree-planted terraces are entirely for private life dwelling.''

If you want all the details see CRITICAL PATH pages 315-323. [C. Fearnley]

[From Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.]

The Old Man River project never got off the drawing boards. It was mainly the work of Washington University architecture prof James Fitzgibbon. He had a long relationship with Fuller, extending back to the early 1950s. Fitzgibbon had designed a domed city to be built on Frobisher Bay in Canada in 1956, and Old Man River was an extension and expansion of that earlier plan. It was also designed to address problems that architects, planners, and policy-makers considered central in the late 1960s and early 1970s, viz. racial segregation, urban decay, and economic growth in the inner cities.

Old Man River would have provided housing and services for several thousand families in the most depressed section of St. Louis. It would have been built and managed by a non-profit corporation, and taken something like 20 years to complete; in Fitzgibbon's evocative phrase, it would have been not only good housing, but a ``job machine,'' a huge project creating new industries in the area by virtue of its immensity. Fuller claimed that it would be the incubator of a new classless, raceless society. However, it never got anything close to the $1 billion required to build it, and the St. Louis municipal government never seemed to have taken it seriously.

[See section Fuller's `failures.' for more commentary on this project.]

5.8 What was the Dymaxion Deployment Unit?

[From Jay Rozen.]

Alden Hatch, in his ``At Home in the Universe,'' describes BF's ``Dymaxion Deployment Unit'' (DDU), a circular structure which BF intended as cheap civilian housing. From 1940 to Pearl Harbor, they were manufactured for Allied troops and sent all over the world.

[From Pat Salsbury]

For more pictures of the D.D.U., or the other stuff Bucky worked on, check ``The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller.'' For blueprints and such, (not necessarily in a size that is legible all the time! ;) ) try ``The Artifacts of Buckminster Fuller''

5.9 What is the Dymaxion Map?

The Dymaxion Map is Fuller's attempt to provide the best all-at-once view (therefore flat and not globe-shaped) of the Whole Earth. His solution is based on projecting the globe onto an icosahedron and then unfolding the icosa (making it flat). His design was awarded U.S. Patent 2,393,676 in 1946.

Details about the Dymaxion Map.

[From Kirby Urner]

It's an icosa with its 20 triangles subdivided to give new vertices, which are push out equi-radially to approximate a sphere. The icosa is an intermediate stage between this high frequency icosa sphere and the final unfolding into a flat projection.

[From Christopher L. Weeks]

Over my recent X-mas break from school, I had the opportunity to visit the semi-new St. Louis Science Center. Among many interesting and some not-so interesting displays there was a dymaxion globe with magnetic panels holding the map sections to it's surface. It was a great puzzle to take them all off and assemble them flat on the surface provided. The display briefly noted that it was called a dymaxion map, and didn't mention Bucky at all. There is also an hourly(?) laser show on a huge (three-story tall) dymaxion map. Again no mention of Bucky. But it is exposure.

[From Sarah Lum]

[The] world map interface, which many of us feel is replete with desirable futuristic connotations, not to mention real advantages.

minimal distortion including in high latitudes no sinus cuts into land masses apolitically polar-centric

hardwired in the literature to civilian deployment strategies on a scale that would arm-chair military masterminds feel right @ home

World Game sells its Global Recall software which shows data on the map -- the deflated, unfolded, orthonormal, omnitriangulated icosaspheric projection.

DISCLAIMER: I am not in any way connected or affiliated with the World Game Institute. This is not to be construed as a sales pitch by a party with a direct or even indirect financial interest in success of World Game, Inc.

5.10 What was the Dymaxion House?

[From Kirby Urner]

The Dymaxion House prototype, for instance, was more octagonal, suspended from a central ``utility mast'' -- a house on a pole.

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