A Review by Patrick G. Salsbury

First Appearance:
TRIMTAB - Bulletin of the Buckminster Fuller Institute
Vol. 10, No. 1 - Autumn 1996, Front Page

J. Baldwin's book, "BuckyWorks: Buckminster Fuller's Ideas For Today", has been published by John Wiley and Sons - 243 pages, cost $29.95
ISBN: 0-471-12953-4

I've been working through J. Baldwin's new book, and have found it to be a refreshing re-introduction to a topic that I thought I knew all too well. After eight years of studying Buckminster Fuller, I had actually begun to think that I knew "all" about his projects; that I was "hip" to Bucky, and that the rest was just review. I'm delighted to report that I've found this to be untrue. Since this review will first be appearing in Trimtab, the newsletter of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, I'll refrain from basics, such as stating that "Buckminster Fuller was an architect and designer, he invented the geodesic dome, etc., etc.," Instead, I'd like to indulge in a bit of "preaching to the choir" and dig into the meat of this book. I won't go into great detail about all the various projects...that's what the book is for. And the book is just an introduction/refresher to help you see the Big Picture that Bucky was working on for so many decades. Instead, in the small space I have here, I'd like to try and convey the excitement of it all. The joy of discovering solutions to problems that seem unsolvable to so many people on the planet. Of science-fiction-like tales of domed cities, and cities that float on the ocean or in the air. Tales that are much more science than they are fiction. (You can even work out the math for yourself if you don't beleive it. Most of it is surprisingly straightforward.)

I'm assuming that most people reading this in the newsletter are going to be well-versed in Bucky. Some of you are his longtime friends. However, even if you're brand new to Bucky, and you've come across this article purely by accident, you would do well to read BuckyWorks. It makes an excellent introductory book, if you've never read anything else by or about him, and it also makes an excellent read if you've already gone through twenty other volumes. I found it to have easily accessible ideas, reminiscent in some ways of "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth". It doesn't get bogged down in severly technical jargon, and yet provides excellent detail, without diluting things with "fluff."

Reading BuckyWorks has rekindled in me a yearning to work on so many of the various projects that were started and have yet to be completed. As noted in the beginning of the book, "R. Buckminster Fuller intentionally worked fifty years ahead of his time. That's now." Many of the problems that he foresaw and designed solutions to are surrounding us in the daily news. Hurricanes are destroying homes by the thousands in the Southeastern United States as I write this. Storms and twenty-foot waves recently wiped out villages in Southeast Asia. The need for a Global Dwelling Service has never been stronger.

J. Baldwin's writing style is clear and to the point. He points out the successes, as well as the failures, and through it all has an absolutely wonderful selection of photos to accompany the text. In fact, the photos are one of the first things that endeared me to the book. At a glance, I could tell that he was really covering the bases, and providing a broad view of Bucky's projects. I knew it was a book I could give to newcomers that would show them what it was all really about. It wasn't just domes he was working on. It wasn't just cars. It wasn't just geometry. It was about systems. It was about analyzing real problems in the real world, and finding ways of "making the world work" for the people living all around this planet.

At the same time, I was surprised to see a lot of photos in there that I'd never seen before. Not in the other 15-20 books I'd read, nor the classes I'd taken, nor the web sites I'd visited. J. has definitely done his homework. A good portion of the book is culled from the approximately 45 TONS of archives that the Buckminster Fuller Institute has in storage. Much of these archives are still largely unexplored, and I'm sure there are treasures abounding there, awaiting rediscovery. As J. politely, and repeatedly, points out at the end of most of his subsections, the groundwork has been started, but much of the real work is still there waiting for new generations, for us, to pick up and carry forward.

Chapter 6, "The Sorcerer's Apprentices," is especially worthy of note. Here are excellent examples of work done by the students of Bucky, at various universities and events all around the world. The pictures are clear, and illustrate different projects and ideas. The wording is very carefully chosen. At times, I can't quite tell if I'm reading as the student, or as the teacher developing curricula for the students. To be sure, there are plenty of ideas there, and ample notes on methods of sharing them with others.

All of the problems are still out there, waiting to be solved. Which ones would you like to work on? The time is now. Pick out your passion, and go at it with full force; with the joy that comes from being part of the solution. Get a copy of this book, absorb it, and share it with friends. It's up to us: Raise the next generation of scientists, doctors, artists, and problem solvers? Or continue on with starvation, homelessness, illness, poverty, and ignorance ravaging the world? Bucky felt we have a choice to make: "Utopia or Oblivion". Which one do you want to work towards?

BuckyWorks is currently available in hardcover edition, printed on acid-free paper with 20% Recycled Post-Consumer Fiber.

BuckyWorks - Buckminster Fuller's Ideas For Today
by J. Baldwin
243 pages
(c) 1996 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
ISBN: 0-471-12953-4

Patrick Salsbury is a Design Scientist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He works on creating solutions for social problems such as traffic congestion, homelessness, poverty, hunger, and poor education.

Most Recent Update: 01/15/97