The Biosphere – Buckminster Fuller

I have been long fascinated with Buckminster Fuller and wanted to make a blog post about him. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that Michael Parker, an architectural photographer whose work I follow and own, had photographed Fullers’ iconic Montreal Biosphere.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Buckminster Fuller
Biosphere structure.
Buckminster Fuller. The Montreal Biosphere. Photo by Micheal Parker.

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller defied categories. He was was a renowned inventor and visionary dedicating his life to making the world work for all of humanity. His numerous inventions are mainly architectural designs, and he also popularized geodesic dome. 

Fuller was a polymath – an architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist. Moreover, he devoted his life to applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity. Fuller’s focus was on solving global problems – housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological issues, and poverty. He was also the second World President of Mensa.

Biosphere grid.
Detail of the Biosphere. Photo by Micheal Parker.

Importance of Geodesic Design

The geodesic dome was the former pavilion for the United States for the 1967 World Fair. Fuller had reinvented and popularized it because it was extremely strong for its weight. surface provided an inherently stable structure.

It was also not to complicated to erect them.  The U.S. government recognized the importance of his work and employed his firm to make small domes for the Marines. They have been build in larger quantities and used for shelters, too.

The geodesic design is a perfect combination of the sturdy arch and the rigid triangle, which enables dome buildings to be extremely strong. Due to their spherical nature, dome dwellings provide a large amount of living space, while taking up very little surface area.

For example, geodesic shelters are found all around the world in various climates and still they prove to be the most efficient human shelter one can find. More specifically, the dome is energy efficient for many reasons: Its decreased surface area requires less building materials.

Biosphere in the natural setting. Montreal.
Buckminster Fuller. Photo by Michael Parker.

The Biosphere, also known in French as “La Biosphère de Montréal”, is a museum located in Montreal that is dedicated to the environment. 

The Impact

To date, his most well-known geodesic dome has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide. However, Buckminster Fuller’s true impact on the world today is in continued influence on generations of designers, architects, scientists, and artists working to create a more eco-friendly planet.

Even though Fuller was expelled from Harvard twice, he has 28 United States patents. This is just a fraction of what Fuller did for humanity. He left a huge footprint as an early environmental activist, among many other achievements in transportation and sustainability.

For more fascinating architecture check out Tadao Ando – Church of the Light

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10 comments

  • Ilmari

    The Montreal Biosphere designed by Buckminister Fuller was a conceptual study presented 1967 World Expo. It now serves as a museum and was followed by actual scientific facilities for study closed ecological systems. Some of these are like BIOS-3 Krasnoyarsk and Biosphere 2 Arizona. Both operate today, Biosphere 2 is operated by University of Arizona and resembles original Biosphere somewhat. BIOS-3 relatively small, underground thus very different approach.
    The closed ecological system is obviously interesting if one is considering long term space missions or missions on other planet/moons. It is also interesting for long term stay on Antarctic or Greenland mining operations under ice or ground. Also, the ability to live long term in deep underwater environments would open new possibilities. These facilities have demonstrated the difficulty and obstacles what closed ecological system faces, both technical, engineering and psychological. They have also demonstrated that success is possible.

    Then I suppose the biosphere is also art and architecture, maybe biosphere 2 also. I just never thought it from that angle. They actually also do look cool.

  • zestandcuriosity (author)

    Thank you so much for this insightful comment Ilmari, and for going more into depth about the origins of this study presented 1967 Expo. I found it also wonderful that serves now as an environmental museum, it is such a fitting purpose. I enjoyed reading about other two geodesic dome project that you mention! The uses are truly many. He had also his home built in such a manner, and it also had great aesthetic. I posted it in my instagram stories. Yes, the design can be used in all temperatures and climates, and Therese’s are endless. Isn’t that fascinating?

    He used materials sparingly, focusing entirely on their tensile properties and on the way they stood up to wind and weather. His approach was “doing more with less”.

    His light and sturdy geodesic dome became an icon of scientific and architectural ingenuity. But, above all he was a humanist, dedicating his life to making the world work for all of its humanity. To be all of this in one person is quite an achievement.

    I read somewhere that he was classified as comprehensive anticipatory designs scientist. I think it is befitting..

    Last, but not the least, I liked your comment that it can be considered as art and architecture. I always saw it as such with a brilliant science behind.

    Thank you so much for your excellent comment again, it was a joy to read it.

  • Bea

    What a fascinating blog post, I learned something new.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you so much! I am so glad that you enjoyed it. Great is the beau of the life. Each day we can learn something new. I also liked his quote – “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”. Makes you think.

  • Freshte

    Enjoyed and learned from The post and comments, great information to discover and think , thank you

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you Freshte. Yes, comments can bring some new insights – and spark a conversation. Thank you for your interest and I am glad that you have enjoyed it.

  • Andrej

    So much I didn’t know about Fuller (except that I loved what he did) until I read this article and the comments thereof. Thank you all for enlightening me here.

    Seeing the Biosphere in person would be something, wouldn’t it?

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Yes, it would. I just enjoy so much reading about him. I also ordered his lectures. I am so curious about his thought process. Can you imagine the conversation with him? I would be in heaven. Thank you for sharing your impressions.

  • sirglio frei

    I like this site very much so much good information.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you Sirglio.

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