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Living life to the Fulle(r)st: Who is this and how is he related to playgrounds?

Living life to the Fulle(r)st: Who is this and how is he related to playgrounds?
PHOTO: Instagram/soohwee.n

Ever wondered how structures like hemispherical climbers in our neighbourhood playgrounds and the Esplanade's iconic mounds came to life? Come, we teach you a new phrase to impress your friends with: geodesic dome.

Simply put, a geodesic dome is one comprising struts which follow geodesic lines (the shortest possible line between two points on a sphere or curved surface), resulting in an open framework of triangles and polygons - and it was popularised by American architect, Buckminster Fuller (12 Jul 1895 - 1 Jul 1983) or "Bucky" to his friends.

Here's an example in Telok Kurau Park:



A new exhibition at ArtScience Museum, "Radical Curiosity: In the Orbit of Buckminster Fuller", is dedicated to this inventor, visionary and futurist (who could very well have foreseen the digital network between humans that we now know as the Internet!), and explores his life's work and the impact he had on so many - including legendary architect Moshe Safdie, who designed Marina Bay Sands and Jewel Changi Airport.

With sustainability and efficiency at the heart of his ideas (which he had a multitude of), the geodesic dome was created out of Bucky’s belief in “doing more with less” since the structure created the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area.


In the 1980s, Bucky's geodesic domes even led to the discovery of a carbon molecule (a fullerene with the formula C60) which was subsequently named “Buckminsterfullerene” in his honour. Because the cage-like structure made of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons resembled a soccer ball, it was affectionately named a "buckyball". Honestly, how many people do you know of that have balls named after them?

A sepak takraw ball makes an appearance in a section of the exhibition entitled "Tensegrity", a term coined by Buckminster Fuller. | Photo: Sim Ding En

Speaking of balls, a couple of sepak takraw balls are featured in one section of the exhibition to illustrate the concept of "tensegrity" - a term coined by Bucky and a portmanteau of the words "tension" and "integrity".

According to the exhibition, it describes "a new kind of architecture inspired by nature. Rather than building upwards, piling material on top of material, Bucky imagined extraordinary structures that maintained their stability, or integrity, through continual tension."

Fun fact: Since Bucky's death in 1983, approximately 300,000 geodesic domes have been built worldwide. You see just how influential and inspiring this man was and still is?

Bucky was also a great documenter, who, at the age of 22 in 1917, came up with the Dymaxion Chronofile - an attempt to document his entire life as a detailed experiment. He kept letters that he sent and received, handwritten notes, newspaper clippings, brochures - and racked up more than 145,000 personal documents.

Can you imagine if Instagram existed then? He'd probably have millions of IG followers. Yes, you could say he was the OG influencer!

Put Bucky's mindblowing theories, innovations and concepts into practice by making your very own domes and structures within this activity geodesic dome. Mai siao siao, you might even be the next Buckminster Fuller and create a sibei ups design.

For more info and tickets to Radical Curiosity: In the Orbit of Buckminster Fuller at ArtScience Museum, click here.

This article was first published in

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