Inside Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion car

Buckminster Fuller, affectionately known as “Bucky”, had a vision for a future that worked for everyone – aboard what he described as “Spaceship Earth”. The American architect died in 1983. But his futuristic heritage focused on sustainability lives on, especially in the Saint-Louis region.

One of Fuller’s geodesic domes – the more complete dome – is at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Also known as the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, it celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall and has been celebrated throughout the year. Last week, a replica of Fuller’s patented 1933 Dymaxion car was parked nearby. Jeff Lane transported the three-wheeled vehicle to the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville.

Evie Hemphill / Saint-Louis Public Radio

Jeff Lane, founder of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, takes the Dymaxion car around campus.

The one-of-a-kind car didn’t stay there: to the surprise of hundreds of visitors, Lane invited them aboard for a tour of the campus.

“The car was made of wood and metal, and I thought it was really interesting,” said Katja Kopp, a retired science teacher and sustainability enthusiast. “The interior is a bit like a wooden boat, and it was cool. And then we have these windows that go out like the bow of a ship, so you really feel like you’re out there in the ride instead of backing up behind the hood of a car.

Lane stressed that Fuller has no interest in becoming an automaker but rather in driving change.

“What he wanted to do was develop new concepts in the construction of cars,” explained the founder of the museum. “One of them was in the process of streamlining, so that they had a higher top speed and would get better fuel economy.”

Indeed, the Dymaxion displayed an impressive 30 miles per gallon of fuel in the 1930s – and could travel up to 90 miles per hour. And as Fuller Dome director Benjamin Lowder noted, the vehicle was just an entirely different beast when Fuller patented it.

“[If] you look at the other cars that were out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, I mean, they basically look like horse-drawn carriages without the horses, ”Lowder said.

Inside Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion car

Fuller is often described as the father of the sustainability movement. He was known to “provide solutions and answers to questions that many of his contemporaries did not even ask yet,” said Lowder, who sees the futurist’s legacy becoming more relevant “with each passing news cycle.” .

“He was thinking back to the 1920s, analyzing data, energy use, and population, and he predicted that if we continued down this path we were on… it wasn’t sustainable,” Lowder said. “It would lead to an environmental crisis. And we find ourselves there today.

Kopp, who sits on the Fuller Dome board of directors, derives a sense of urgency from Fuller’s example of taking real action.

“We have to do it now,” she said, “for the sake of your grandchildren and for the sake of the beautiful fall days, the rains and the beautiful coastlines.”

Saint Louis on the air”Brings you the stories of Saint-Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah fenske and produced by Alex heuer, Emily woodbury, Evie hemphill and Lara hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The sound engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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