Buckminster Fuller Creates Striking Posters of His Own Inventions


In addition to his formidable body of work in architecture, design, and theory of the kind the world had never known before, Buckminster Fuller also knew how to promote himself. Sometimes this meant appearing on late-night new-age talk shows, but at its core it meant coming up with ideas that would immediately "read" as revolutionary to anyone who saw them in action. But how to put them before the eyes of someone who hasn't had the chance to see a geodesic dome, a Dymaxion House and Car, or even a Geodome 4 tent in real life?

The ascent of graphic design in the 20th century, a century Fuller saw begin and lived through most of, provided one promising answer: posters. The ones you see here show off "Fuller’s most famous inventions, with line drawings from his patents superimposed over a photograph of the thing itself," writes Fast Company's Katharine Schwab.




"While they look like something Fuller aficionados might have created after the man’s death to celebrate his work, Fuller actually created them in partnership with the gallerist Carl Solway near the end of his career."

These posters, "striking with their two-layer design, are Fuller’s visual homage to his own genius — and an attempt to bring what he believed were world-changing utopian concepts to the masses." They're also now on display at the Edward Cella Art + Architecture in Los Angeles, whose exhibition "R. Buckminster Fuller: Inventions and Models" runs until November 2nd. "Fuller’s objects and prints function not only as models of the mathematical and geometric properties underlying their construction but also as elegant works of art," says the gallery's site. "As such, the works represent the hybridity of Fuller’s practice, and his legacy across the fields of art, design, science, and engineering."

You can see more of Fuller's posters, which depict and visually explain the structures of such inventions as the geodesic dome and Dymaxion Car, of course, but also lesser-known creations like a "Fly's Eye" dome covered in bubble windows (individually swappable for solar panels), a submersible for offshore drilling, and a rowboat with a body reduced to two thin "needles," at Designboom. Edward Cella Art + Architecture has also made the posters available for purchase at $7,000 apiece. That price might seem in contradiction with Fuller's utopian ideals about universal accessibility through sheer low cost, but then, who could look at these and call them anything but works of art?

via Curbed

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

French Illustrator Revives the Byzantine Empire with Magnificently Detailed Drawings of Its Monuments & Buildings: Hagia Sophia, Great Palace & More

The Byzantine Empire fell in the mid-15th century, but something of its spirit still lives on. A great deal of it lives on in the work of the French illustrator Antoine Helbert. "This passion was kindled by a birthday gift from his mother," writes a blogger named Herve Risson in a post about it. "This gift was a book about Byzantium. Helbert was 7 years old." Like many an interest instilled early and deeply enough in childhood, Helbert's fascination turned into an obsession — or anyway, what looks like it must be an obsession, since it has motivated him to create such magnificently detailed recreations of Byzantium in its heyday.

"Attracted by the architecture," Risson writes of Helbert, "he has also a strong passion for the history of the Byzantine Empire, much maligned and despised, in comparison with the history of the 'real' Roman Empire."




That's not to say that the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, has received no attention, but undoubtedly it has received less than the Western Roman Empire it survived in the fifth century. Still, few historical empires of any kind receive such an exquisite degree of attention from any single living artist.

You can see some of Helbert's work on his site, which is divided into two sections: one for scenes of Byzantium, and one for the architecture of Byzantium. The latter category, images from which you see here, includes such world-famous landmarks as Hagia Sophia, Boukoleon Palace, and the Great Palace of Constantinople — the city now known as Istanbul, Turkey. The intact Hagia Sophia continues to attract tourists in huge numbers, but those who visit the Great Palace, or what remains of it, have to use their imagination to get a sense of what it must have looked like in the Byzantine Empire's heyday.

Helbert, who only made his first visit to Istanbul at the age of 35, has put in that amount of imaginative work and much more besides. "Since then," writes Risson, Helbert "has taken great care to resurrect the city of the emperors, with great attention to details and to the sources available. What he can’t find, he invents, but always with a great care for the historical accuracy." Indeed, many of Helbert's illustrations don't, at first glance, look like illustrations at all, but more like what you'd come up with if you traveled back to the Constantinople of fifteen or so centuries ago with a camera. "The project has no lucrative goal," Risson notes. "It’s a passion. A byzantine passion!"

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How the Radical Buildings of the Bauhaus Revolutionized Architecture: A Short Introduction

When Germany lost World War I, it also lost its monarchy. The constitution for the new postwar German state was written and adopted in the city of Weimar, giving it the unofficial name of the Weimar Republic. Free of monarchical censorship, the Weimar Republic saw, among other upheavals, the floodgates open for artistic experimentation in all areas of life. One of the most influential aesthetic movements of the era began in Weimar, where the Great Big Story short above opens. As the city gave birth to the Weimar Republic, it also gave birth to the Bauhaus.

The Bauhaus, literally "building house," was a school in two senses, both a movement and an actual institution. The style it advocated, according to the video's narrator, "looked to strip buildings from unnecessary ornament and build the foundation of what is called modern architecture." It was at Weimar University in 1919 that architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, and his office still stands there as a testament to the power of "clean, simple designs fit for the everyday life." We also see the first official Bauhaus building, Georg Muche's Haus am Horn of 1923, and Gropius' Bauhaus Dessau of 1925, which "amazed the world with its steel-frame construction and asymmetrical plan."

You can learn more about the Bauhaus' principles in the video above, a chapter of an Open University series on design movements. As an educational institution, the Bauhaus "offered foundation training in many art and design disciplines," including mass production, seeking to "develop students who could unify art with craft while embracing new technology." Bauhaus thinkers believed that "good design required simplicity and geometric purity," which led to works of graphic design, furniture, and especially architecture that looked then like radical, sometimes heretical departures from tradition — but which to their creators represented the future.

"Nothing dates faster than people's fantasies about the future," art critic Robert Hughes once said, but somehow the fruits of the Bauhaus still look as modern as they ever did. That holds true even now that the influence of the Bauhaus manifests in countless ways in various realms of art and design, though it had already made itself globally felt when the school moved to Berlin in 1932. By that time, of course, Germany had another regime change coming, one that would denounce the Bauhaus as a branch of "degenerate art" spreading the disease of "cosmopolitan modernism." The Gestapo shut it down in 1933, but thanks to the efforts of emigrants like Gropius, Hannes Meyer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, each of whom once led the school, the Bauhaus would live on.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Frank Lloyd Wright Creates a List of the 10 Traits Every Aspiring Artist Needs


No figure looms larger over American architecture than Frank Lloyd Wright. From the early 1890s to the early 1920s he established himself as the builder of dozens of striking, stylistically innovative private homes as well as public works like Chicago's Midway Gardens and Tokyo's Imperial Hotel. But by the end of that period his personal life had already turned chaotic and even tragic, and in his professional life he saw his commissions dry up. Just when it looked like he might not leave much of a legacy at all, an idea came to him: why not start a school?

"Wright founded what he called the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932, when his own financial prospects were dismal, as they had been throughout much of the 1920s," writes architecture critic Michael Kimmelman in the New York Review of Books. "Having seen the great Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, his former boss, die in poverty not many years earlier, Wright was forestalling his own prospective oblivion." Charging a tuition of $675 ("raised to $1,100 in 1933, more than at Yale or Harvard"), Wright designed a program "to indoctrinate aspiring architects in his gospel of organic architecture, for which they would do hours of daily chores, plant crops, wash Wright’s laundry, and entertain him and his guests as well as one another in the evenings with musicals and amateur theatricals."

There at Taliesin, his eponymous home-studio, located in the appropriately rural setting of Spring Green, Wisconsin, Wright sought to forge not just complete architects, and not just complete artists, but complete human beings. He proposed, in Kimmelman's words, "the creation of a small, independent society made better through his architecture." He also drew up a list, later included in his autobiography, of the qualities the builders of that society should possess:

I. An honest ego in a healthy body – good correlation
II. Love of truth and nature
III. Sincerity and courage
IV. Ability for action
V. The esthetic sense
VI. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work
VII. Fertility of imagination
VIII. Capacity for faith and rebellion
IX. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance
X. Instinctive cooperation

This list reflects the kind of qualities Wright seemed to spend his life cultivating in himself, not to mention displaying to the public. Not that he showed much regard for the truth when it conflicted with his own mythmaking, nor an instinct for cooperation with those he considered less than his equals — and architecturally speaking, he didn't consider anyone his equal. As well as Wright's ego may have served him, not every artist needs one quite so colossal, but perhaps, per his list, they do need an honest one. "Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility," he once said. "I chose the former and have seen no reason to change."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Take a 360° Virtual Tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architectural Masterpieces, Taliesin & Taliesin West

In addition to his buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright left behind more than 23,000 drawings, 40 large-scale models, 44,000 photographs, 600 manuscripts and 300,000 pieces of correspondence. Any archives of that size, in this case a size commensurate with Wright's presence in architectural history, demand a daunting (and expensive) amount of maintenance work. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation did the best it could with them after the architect's death in 1959, housing most of their materials at Wright's two far-flung studio-home-school complexes: Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In 2012, the Foundation partnered with the Museum of Modern Art and the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library to move the archives to New York and digitize them. Taliesin and Taliesin West, however, still stand in the same places that they always have.




With a quarter of the 400 structures Wright designed in his lifetime now demolished or otherwise lost, one has to wonder: could the buildings themselves be digitally archived as well? Leica Geosystems has taken a step in that direction by using "the world’s smallest and lightest imaging laser scanner, the BLK360" to produce "a dimensionally accurate laser captured representation" of Taliesin West.

The resulting "point cloud" version of Taliesin West appears in the video above, which shows how the data captured by the system represents the exterior and the interior of the building. Like most important works of architecture, its aesthetics somehow both represent the project's time (in this case, construction and additions spanning from 1911–1959) and transcend it. The scan also includes the surrounding natural landscape, from which one can never separate Wright's masterworks, as well as the specially designed furniture inside. This technology also makes possible a virtual tour, which you can take here. You might follow it up with the virtual tour of the original Taliesin previously featured here on Open Culture, thereby making an architectural pilgrimage of 1600 miles in an instant.

Wright, according to the New York Review of Books' architectural critic Martin Filler, believed in "the supremacy of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the complete work of art that was the dream of nineteenth-century visionaries who foresaw the disintegration of culture in the wake of the Industrial Revolution." It makes sense that the architect, equally a man of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, would dedicate himself to the notion that "only by changing the world — or, failing that, creating an alternative to it — could art be saved." With his buildings, Wright did indeed create an alternative to the world as it was. How they'll hold up in the centuries to come nobody can say, but with more and more advanced methods of integration between the physical and digital worlds, perhaps his art can be saved.

Take a virtual tour of Taliesin West here, and the original Taliesin here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Ancient Astronomy of Stonehenge Decoded

The summer solstice draws nigh, and many of us will spend it bemoaning the fact that we have yet again failed to make it to Stonehenge to view the sun rising over its massive Heel Stone.

Don’t beat yourself up too badly.

According to Vox’s Senior Editorial Producer Joss Fong, above, it’s likely that the winter solstice was actually a far bigger deal to the Neolithic builders who engineered the site.

While much of it is now in ruins, archeologists, historians, astronomers, and other experts have been able to reconstruct what the ancient monument would have looked like in its heyday. The placement of the massive stones in carefully arranged concentric circles suggest that its feats of astronomy were no accident.




As Fong points out, the builders would not have known that the earth travels around the sun, nor that it tilts on its vertical axis, thus effecting where the sun’s rays will strike throughout the year.

They would, however, have had good cause to monitor any natural phenomena as it related to their agricultural practices.

The summer solstice would have come at the height of their growing season, but if this year’s sunrise celebrants spin 180 degrees, they will be facing in the same direction as those ancient builders would have when they arrived to celebrate the winter solstice with a sunset feast.

These days, the winter solstice attracts a sizable number of tourists, along with neo-druids, neo-pagans, and Wiccans.

Bundle up and join them, take a virtual tour, or at the very least, try your hand at assembling the nifty Aedes-Ars Stonehenge Model Kit Fong glues together like a pro.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight opens June 12 at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Modernist Birdhouses Inspired by Bauhaus, Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. - Frank Lloyd Wright

Is there a design geek lurking among your fine feathered friends?

Some chickadee or finch who values clean lines over the fripperies of the gilded cage?

Or perhaps you’re a bird lover who’s loathe to junk up your mid-century modernist view by hanging a folksy miniature saltbox from a branch outside the kitchen window....

California-based cabinetmaker Douglas Barnhard’s Bauhaus birdhouses offer a minimalist solution.

No word on the interiors, but the exteriors are gorgeous, with additional inspiration coming from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler.

Barnhard, who studied architecture briefly, repurposes walnut, bamboo, teak, and mahogany in his designs, which extend to dog beds, breadboxes, and planters.

His birdhouses feature living walls and green roofs planted with succulents.

Some have tiny longboards propped on their decks, a reflection of the time Barnhard spent in Kauai.

Surfin’ Bird!

Is it wishful thinking to believe it’s only a matter of time ’til tiny wetsuits and empty Fosters and Pacificos start festooning the rails?

Browse Barnhard’s birdhouses here and follow him on Instagram to get a peek at custom orders, many for customers residing in the sorts of homes he recreates for the birds.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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