R. Buckminster Fuller and Utopian Ecology
History Thesis, TU Delft, Vladimir Ondejcik, sup. Hans Van Dijk, 2011
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I would like to thank you to my family and Jennie for support, to Hans van Dijk for
supervising this thesis and to R. B. Fuller for inventing the World Game.
1. Foreword of author
3. Essential biography of RBF
4. World design science decade
5. World game
6. World Game exhibition
7. World energy project
10. Fuller vs. Club of Rome
11. Forgotten Fuller? (Conclusion)
13. A list of literature
a. Brief chronology of Richard Buckminster Fuller
c. Selected World Design Science Decade’s and World Game documents
d. World3 and Limits to Growth documents
e. List of World simulation models
1. Foreword of author
Any real or imaginary society, place, etc,
considered to be perfect or ideal.”
(Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. n.d.)
Recently I was reading an article in „Architectural design” magazine about Richard
Buckminster Fuller and John McHale written by A. Vilder, called “What happened to
the ecology” 1. In this article A. Vilder did not show Buckminster Fuller as an inventor
or famous builder of Geodesic domes, as he is generally known over world, but as
one of key characters in propagating ecologic comprehensive thinking in architectural
discourse in 1950s and then in 1960s. A. Vilder in his article put Fuller into position of
ecologist, which was in this sense “discovered” by John McHale, a member of
Independent group in UK, in 1955. (Vilder 2010)
Buckminster Fuller was a person with very unique thinking. Despite small revivals of
Buckminster Fuller in 21 century, I experienced him as forgotten especially in Europe.
This confirms M. Pawley, where he noted that Nicklaus Pevsner does not include
Fuller in his books, and the same did 20 years later Richards, Russell, Hitchcock and
Johnes. Vincent Scully was interested just in geodesic dome. (M. Pawley 1990)
During my studies on 3 universities 2, I don’t remember any lecture, dedicated to
Buckminster Fuller. So I took this option and decided to write about him, inspired by
A. Vilder, not from generally known view, but form the ecological side. It is possible to
trace thoughts about resources, recycling and other ecological topics, in most of his
work, however I picked the one where the this problem was elaborated the most,
Buckminster Fuller’s World (peace) Game, idea that initiated World design science
decade (1965-1975), and why he established Resource Inventory Centre at Southern
Illinois University, where he worked together with John McHale. World Game as
computerized tool was very influential in 70s inspired many others, also Professors
Forrester and Meadows.
The ecology and sustainable design is very hot topic today, and I think that
Buckminster Fuller can still teach us something in this field.
“People often tell me I am an optimist,
and I say, I am a very hard realist.
I know we have the option to make it,
and that’s very different from being an optimist.”
(R. B. Fuller 1980, 197)
Doing more with less was a main motto of Buckminster Fuller. It was a key to solve
any problem. Doing more with less should be written with capital letters on walls of
every sustainable engineer, designer and architect, ecologist, environmentalist or
anyone who is thinking how to make our environment to serve to everybody.
The question of ecology was to the architectural discourse introduced by Patrick
Geddes around 1890s. From that time, ecological movement had culminated and
was push back several times with the main peaks in 1920s, 1930s, 1950s, 1960s and
In 1920s it was researched by Ernst Haeckel in Germany. His thoughts was
elaborated and gave a ground for emergement of ecofacist movement led by Alwin
Seifert. This is a time when on other side of globe the breakthrough ideas of
Buckminster Fuller was born. From this time the environmental impulse culminated
several times. Anthony Vilder in his article considered following periodical events
especially connected to Independent group in Britain in 1950s, where John McHale
“discovered” Richard Buckminster Fuller. (Vilder 2010)
Young independent group was convened by Banham and was a coalition of Britain’s
young architects, to discuss mainly aesthetics of modern architecture at that time. In
1954 Banham gave up a chair of coverner and John McHale and Lawrence Alloway
took his place.
John McHale was a sociologist who and artist. He less known in connection to
Independent group, but he was a leading and active member. His later work was in
difference to other members dedicated to futurology, ecology and sustainability.
McHale’s biography has many similarities with Buckminster Fuller. John McHale was
born in Glasgow in 1922. Before he volunteered to Royal marines he was working as
a technician. After his visits in Paris in 1947 he turned to art and he formed a studio
together with Maida Vale and Lawrence Alloway.
In March 1954 as a member of Independent group he held a discussion on work of
Buckminster Fuller. And in 1958 Fuller accepted his invitation and gave lecture at
RIBA. At this point McHale was highly interested in technological progress. In the
same year he exhibited his Transistor collages, which was inspired by new progress
in telecommunication and invention of transistor.
Year after McHale was offered to study at Yale University. There he met Joseph
Albers, Marcel Duchamp and Richard Buckminster Fuller. Inspired by American
culture, after his arrival back to England, he joined Group 2 to organize exhibition
“This is tomorrow”. Historically McHale’s most interesting work exhibited there was
„Just what I this that makes today’s home so different“ where he used illustration of
whole earth. Earth was photographed by NASA 16 years later.
“Confirming this in thinking of McHale is his Long biographical article on Buckminster
Fuller published in July 1956, claimed that Fuller was neither “the man with the
dome–house bug” nor simply a “man with a tidier mind”. He was “a phenomenon
which lies outside of customary cannons of architectural judgment. For McHale,
Fuller was representative of radical change in climate ideas, …” (Vilder 2010) (J.
Vilder also stated that when Fuller stated problem, McHale track down the evidence
and with sociological and mathematical precision collected statistics to prove it.
(Vilder 2010) The fascination with Fuller is very obvious and when Buckminster Fuller
started to promote computer simulations for his World Game, it was the final impulse
for McHale. In 1962 he moved to the United States, together with his family, and
joined Richard Buckminster Fuller, in leading World design science decade on
Southern Illinois University. He becomes a research associate and executive director
of this project. McHale similarly as Fuller was Promoting need of computerized
centre, in which „ ecologist would steer Spaceship Earth to better future.“ (Anker
Inventory of world resources, human trends and needs established at Southern
Illinois University in 1962 ,was main source data for Buckminster Fuller’s World
Game and coordination centre for World design science decade, that fuller initiated
together with International committee of Architects (U.I.A.).
World Game is summary of all Fuller knowledge, it is literacy manual how to steer our
Spaceship Earth3. World game had inspired many Fuller’s contemporaries between
most notable would definitely be world3 model from Limits to growth. Anker4 and
Blake5 in their articles are mentioning this influence, but they do not put any concrete
evidence to confirm their prediction. On the other side in references form Club of
report are not mentioning any gratitude nor inspiration to Fuller and same goes for
biographies of authors.
3. Essential Biography
„A sailing ship opens up the sea,
But unlike a bulldozer it doesn’t hurt the sea.”
(R. B. Fuller 1980)
Buckminster Fuller is generally known as great inventor, architect, or comprehensive
designer and many people have good knowledge about his biography. But my
research shows that especially the younger generations of architectural students
might have an insufficient knowledge of important fact form his life. Buckminster
Fuller ideas are closely connected between each other and they are related very
much to important biographical events that occurred during his life. During his
lectures and speeches6, he is constantly referring back to his past. The following
short biography is pointing out the important issues that had influenced development
of World Game.
Richard Buckminster Fuller jr. was born to proud New England family on 7th
December 1895 in Milton Massachusetts. His father R. B. Fuller was successful
leather merchant. His grandfather was an American civil war hero and his aunt
Margaret Fuller was famous feminist writer and the author of Woman in the
Nineteenth Century. During his childhood, he was short, cross-eyed, with one leg
shorter than other and badly behaved in school. (R. B. Fuller 1980) His eye problems
had forced him to see the world from another perspective; blurry vision gave option to
other senses to grow. He was first person in family history that was fired twice from
Harvard. He gained power to push his thinking beyond normal person, and ability to
always stand up after all failures, and learned from them.
He never studied architecture or building science, and he never even applied to be
certified architect, though in this field he became most successful. During his
childhood he spent summers on small island in Penobscot Bay of the state of Maine.
Here he get to the closest contact with ship building, repairing, and fishing in which
he saw things very close to those running in the nature. “Our island has a rich
resource of beach-dried driftwood and standing timber, the use of which required
permission of no one. With a pocket knife and few other tools I designed and
produced many crude, scale and full-size, experimental design in planning boats,
valvable houses and rolling or soaring transport devices…between 194-1914” (R. B.
Fuller, Ideas and Integrities 2010)
After graduating from Milton Academy, and being fired first time from Harvard for
“general irresponsibility,” his family sent him to Canada to work in cotton mill. He
learned a lot about economic value, and got engineering course from reality, when he
had to repair parts, which were damaged during transport from Europe.
In his next job, for Armour, and Co., he got opportunity to examine economic patters,
and high speed cross-country movement of goods, on which he build up patters for
During the war, Buckminster Fuller joined the Navy, and studied at the United States
Naval Academy. It was his next very close experience with boats after days spent on
islands in Penobscot bay. Knowledge gained about patterns in shipbuilding, handling,
navigating was inspiring him all his life. “I found all of these ship-complexes to be the
most superior tools of their respective historical moments, providing standards of
effectiveness undreamed of in my boyhood’s islands days.” (R. B. Fuller, Ideas and
When he was fired for second time from Harvard he moved to New York, where he
met his wife Anne Hewett. It was his father in law, brought him to world architecture
and encouraged him to listen to his thoughts. After tragic death of his daughter, he
stared to work together with his father in law in Stockade building company. Massive
building system was exact opposite of what he had learned in navy. “After 5 years of
prodigious and informative wrestling within this arena of increasing inefficiency, my
thoughts were suddenly brought into new focus by an independent event” (R. B.
Fuller, Ideas and Integrities 2010). His second daughter Allegra was borne. With this
event his life gained new focus, doing more with less7.
To ensure his new target, he started to collect data to see how many years of
research and development are necessary to individual to make a major
breakthrough, and experimented with industrial equation to modify these data.
Soon he started his quite year of contemplating. “…in 1927, I decided that the way I
had acquired bad rules and conflicting thoughts was though words-when somebody
told me these things. Therefore, I became very suspicious of words. I said: “words
seem to me to be one of the most extraordinary tool acquisitions of men; I don’t think
men were born with words. There may have been a time they didn’t have words. I
know of people inventing words, but most of the words were here before me and they
are tools. They are obviously tools, and I am enough of mechanic to know that you
can use tools in the wrong way….. It was very tough on my wife, but I decided I was
going to try to hold a moratorium of speech for myself” (R. B. Fuller, Ideas and
Integrities 2010, 70)
During this period he studied books and magazines about mathematics, economics
science, and architecture. He gained strong knowledge base to support his
inventions with long lists of facts. From studies of molecular physics he acquired a
view of world as a whole. This new way of thinking he called 4D, thinking in time,
thinking of consequences instead of thinking in space. He developed a “design
science” –with a simple target to get maximum from the minimum use of energy and
materials for maximizing human advantage. Historically best know of these ideas, a
mast supported, prefabricated structure called Dymaxion house. It is followed by
ideas dymaxion towers, dymaxion auto–airplane.(1927) Later he build Dymaxion car
(1933), Dymaxion bathroom, Dymaxion deployment unit (1940) and Wichita house
(originally Dymaxion 2) (1944-46)
Fuller explains that as a ship, Dymaxion house was independent from piped water.
Water used in shower was recycled, toilets were even water free. The waist from
them was hermetically packed for later use in chemistry industries. All houses were
fully operative once it was set down. (R. B. Fuller 1980)
In 1928 Fuller moved to New York. During his stay in Greenwich Village, his ideas
founded more followers. Here he also met he good friend Noguchi.
In 1940, Fuller inspired by grains bins create small prefabricated housing unit, with
price under dollar for square meter. These converted bins achieved great success in
military circles. When Second World War ended, it was a great opportunity to mass
produce these houses. For first, it would solve postwar housing shortage and gave
work to people from army airplane factories. So Fuller moved to Wichita and began to
developed drawings for new dymaxion house inspired by those bins.
Popularity of Buckminster Fuller was slowly growing and as a result he was invited to
Black mountain collage by Joseph Albers to teach summer class. Here he met John
Cage, Merce Cunningham, Bille de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, Arthur Penn, Ruth
Asava, Albert Lanier, Sadao and Ken Snelson. “One of the most important
developments to grow out Bucky’s theories was the discovery by his student and
later well known sculptor Kenneth Snelson of tension integrity“ (R. B. Fuller 1980)
Tensional integrity or tensegrity, is a structure consisting of continuous tension
element and several compression element. Tensegrity give shape to octet truss and
geodesic dome. Finally in 1953, great moment come and Henry Ford ordered a
cupola to cover atrium over Ford central. Geodesic dome based on octet truss was
20 times lighter than conventional steel construction. After great success of Ford
cupola, Bucky got series of commissions coming from private investors, state
agencies and army. He developed all possible variations of dome ranging in
construction type, material, and cover. Materials included paper, wood, plastic…
Fuller popularity was increasing and so was amount of lectures given, presentations
of his works in galleries and magazines. In 1958 he was invited by John McHale and
Independent group to London.
“More and more, with my continuing studies about world resources, I became
increasingly concerned about an accurate map of the world” (R. B. Fuller 1980)
though the lot of development and adjustments, he wrapped a spherical icosahedron
around globe. The unfolded version of map consisted of squares and triangles with a minimal distortion in size of continents. No distortion is crucial aspect for studying
world problems. Accurate mapping of World resources and density of population will
evoke correct feeling, just by looking. “We’re beginning to get enough insists about
how you could make your whole world work for all humanity, very successfully.” (R.
B. Fuller 1980) Dymaxion map was a main predisposition for World Game. In 1952,
while McHale was first time in US, he was working with Fuller on Geoscope on
Cornwell University, and Princeton University. Geoscope was 60 meters diameter
sphere, with computerized small computer controlled lights. As K. Michael Hays
asserted, Geoscope was an inverted planetarium for playing World Game, and it was
peak at his tracking resources research during whole 50s. (Hays 2008)
4. World design science decade
World design science decade was originated in 1961, when Fuller presented his idea
in front of International Union of Architects (UIA). It was the result of his work from
50s. The idea was that architectural schools around world to invest following 10 years
into deep research how to make world’s resources work for 100% of humanity. The
students were supposed to learn an art of World planning. „Fuller emphasized that
„Design scientist would not be concerned with seat of tractor but with the whole
concept of production and distribution of food““ (Anker 2007) K Michael Hays
explained that Fuller was convinced that architecture profession is the only one ,
which is trained to put things together and think comprehensively. The architecture
schools should be though placed on new base. (Hays 2008) As this kind of action
could not be made without central coordination, Fuller wrote an executive document.
This document is supported with research made in 1962 in Resource simulation
centre established by Fuller at Southern Illinois University. The team of students from
different backgrounds and faculties was led by Buckminster Fuller and John McHale.
World design science decade was divided into 5 two year parts; each of them was
overlapping, interweaving regenerative and following progress of previous ones. All
of them were arranged in terms of natural, evolutionary priority of student program.
Phase one, World literacy, World Problems (1963-1964), was about design science
solution and dramatic educational tools to make a world resource inventory. It should
as well indicate the solution to made world resources work for 100% of humanity
instead of that days 44%.
Phase two, Prime Movers and Prime Metals, reviewed and analyzed the world
energy problems. In addition it was focused on circulation and recycling of metals.
John McHale’s document gathering research from this era was later republished in
his timeless book the ecological context, valid today as it would be written yesterday.
Phase three, Tool Evolution, (planned 1967-1971), was about differentiation and
evolution of machine tools, and following integration of them into industrial complex.
Phase four, The Service Industries, (planned 1971-1973), was to analyze world
network of service industries, such as telephone, communication services, schools,
hotels and airways. They should be „frequency modulated, -- world planning of three
shift, 24-hour use of facilities, i.e., most industrial facilities as yet operating under
obsolete agricultural dawn to dusk, single frequency usage. (R. B. Fuller, Design
Phase five, The Evolution contact Products, (planned 1973-1975) was a last phase in
world design science decade, supposed not to be the „end product“ but only
a contact Instruments of industrialization, which can be “Plugged-in“ or „latch-on“ to
services, or communication units. ...
This multidisciplinary research could easily lost focus on design and therefore Fuller
decided to use Geoscope as generalized principle of projecting data. The Geoscope
would present statistical knowledge and it would educate student just by simple
looking at it. The world Game was based on these very same roots. Students
acquired in World design science decade collecting data was supposed to
collaborate with UN or WHO and use precise information collected by these and
project them on Geoscopes, where they can be further examined.
World design science decade emphasize to architecture students needs for
environmental design. All points of design science, regarding use of resources,
energies, metals, recirculation at more are sketched by Fuller in document one and
brought to very detail by McHale in document 6.
Fuller I his ideas and integrities mention the fact that at the firs moment in history
when was economic data collected from whole earth, then Thomas Malthus come to
conclusion that people were populating much more rapidly them they were creating
goods for their support. When Darwin published evolutionary theory, the survival of
the best was a scientific fact. With the continuing industrialization the humans
leverage to work was much higher, than at Malthus’ times (R. B. Fuller, Ideas and
Integrities 2010) Fuller was fully aware of this fact and with his research is working in
exact other direction, knowing the possibility for growth for everyone.
5. World Game
For Buckminster Fuller in fact, the World Game was his 43 years long design science
exploration.8 Resources Simulation Centre and World Design Science Decade were
established by Fuller to support World Game. The word Game is “played” with
information from 6 volumes of data from World Design Science Decade compiled at
Southern Illinois University. (R. B. Fuller, The world game: integrative resource
utilisation planning tool 1971) Comprehensive knowledge and precise data are
essential to successfully complete or rather solve World Game scenario.
World Game or World Peace Game was opposite pole to war games, which he
learned during his stay in Navy. However the idea of Game can be seen in
connection to movement called New Games Movement, which appear in early 70s.
The New games movement was created as a response to Vietnam War, formed by
counter culture activists Stewart Brand, Bernie DeKoven and Andrew Fluegeman.
Nevertheless these games was a really games, they have many similarities with
Buckminster Fuller World Game proposed in the same time.
In Brand’s game the battle for control over Mother Earth, hundreds of people together
inflated 180cm ball hand painted with Earth’s motives. „The rules were simple: There
are two kinds of people in the world: those who want to push Earth over the row of
flags at the end of the field and those, who want to push it over fence at the other
end. Go to it. (Flugeman, 1976, p.9) Players mobilized the reimagined Earth from all
sides, and whenever a team neared a goal, it was noted, that players from the
winning team would defect to help the other side. “ (Pearce C. 2007) the game
reached the utopian state, where the point was not to win, but to play. Farrington
believed that these games will support people to celebrate their abilities, instead of
competing with them. Similarly in Fuller’s World Game where task is not to beat other
team but to collaborate for all humanity, all players win or lose.
It is possible to misunderstand Word Game as a loose guide to create different
scenarios about managing world’s resources; however the exact opposite is the truth.
Fuller noted that his Word Game is a “precisely defined design science process for
arriving at economic, technological and social insights pertinent to humanity’s future
envolment aboard our planet Earth. “ (R. B. Fuller, The world game: integrative
resource utilisation planning tool 1971) and the world game is defined Congressional
record from his speech in front of Subcommittee on intergovernmental relations of the
Committee on Government operations of United States on March 4, 1969.
Fuller also continues in elaborating his ideas and stated that:” World Gaming is not
played against enemy but against ignorance, inertia, and fear.” (R. B. Fuller 1980)
Peder Anker is revealing more about play of world game performed by student and
volunteers. The process took up to several weeks. In the first phase groups of
student studied data in particular segment and at the end of this preparation period,
result was presented to other groups. Then the World Game playing would start. The
process was mostly analytical. The schools which doesn’t have a Geoscope, created
for this purpose a Game room, which was an analogy to war room. (Anker 2007, 430)
This analytical process should create a solution for problems defined in preparation
stage of game and create a precise scenario.
Fuller understand World Game as a design revolution. He is giving high emphasis on
recirculation of primary metal as steel, copper and aluminum. As example he is
pointing out at Japan which collected metal scrap before war, and could compete
with US even without mines. (186) He concluded his thoughts: “To understand about
design revolution we have to ask, “How efficient are our uses of energy?” “ (R. B.
Fuller 1980, 186)
Today the preblematique of world game can be understood in 3 layers. The first is as
it was mention beginning of this chapter a complete research of Buckminster Fuller.
The second one is process following World design science decade, described in this
chapter, and at the end realized in series of workshops held on architectural schools
all over the world and the third one I named as World Game exhibition. And Richter
also notated that World Game can be understood as last minute emergency to
bypass politics, ignorance, and prejudice and put real fact and problems inform of
world, and deal with them. (Richter 1972)
6. World game exhibition
“The U.S. Pavilion at the Expo 67 World’s Fair was the first big commission for our firm,
Fuller and Sadao. The initial concept was to do a World Game, a peaceful civilian version of
a war game where you would attempt to make efficient use of world resources. But the truss
we proposed was too advanced. So we said, ‘Let’s do a geodesic dome instead.’“
According to Fuller world game was created in 1961, but the ideas can be traced
back to 1927. Fuller claimed that World Game in defined in his speech for US
congress in 1969. (R. B. Fuller, The world game: integrative resource utilisation
planning tool 1971) This definition is rather complex and include all three
understandings. Besides main key points of design science, his speech he defined
needs for Resource Simulation Centre, comprehensive design, and principles of
World Game. In chapter he also explains the most concrete architectonic proposal,
which for order I named World game exhibition. In chapter “How it all came about”
drove the proposal in very detail.This proposal was created by Fuller, when he was asked to create exposition and
pavilion for Montreal Expo’67 in 1964.
Fuller assumed that humanity has established strong confidence in reliability of
properties, which are under control of computers9 and therefore he proposed
computer driven exposition hosted in 5/8 120m diameter sphere building, very similar
to dome that was actually build. In the basement, would be located the
supercomputer. Visitors would be brought by 36 ramps to balcony, running all around
perimeter of this building. In the middle, the visitors would see suspended 30 meters
in diameter world globe. All the big cities would appear flattened with their highest
buildings just few millimeters high. This globe would be periodically turning into an
icosahedron. The visitors would see that this process is not changing the relative size
of land and water. Then the icosahedronical globe would open around edges and it
would be flattened on the ground into Fuller’s Sky ocean map. The map would be
equipped with the computer driven lights representing, world resources, events and
other conditions. Precise data was collected during research held at Southern Illinois
University. Visitors could play World Game alone or in teams with those data given.
Fuller also adds the main task for players: „the objective of a game would be to
explore for ways to make it possible for anybody and everybody in human family to
enjoy the total earth without any human interfering with any other human and without
any human gaining advantage at expense of another.“ (R. B. Fuller, The world game:
integrative resource utilisation planning tool 1971) The world game in this sense was
never build. But several universities had organized world game workshops and
seminars led by Fuller, where students was playing world game with less expensive
7. World energy project (Fuller)
Starting from 1969 Fuller started to organized World Game workshops. The first
workshop was organized in collaboration with Ed Schlossberg at New York Studio
school of Painting and Sculpture. Participants created a powerful interdisciplinary
group and workshop gave base to the most important engineering project, which was
born from ideas of World Game. Fuller describe the projects in report form this
workshop and he included this report to Document 1 in World Game series.
While examining energy networks over US and world, Fuller found out that it would
be easily possible to connect electricity networks to Russian water dams in Alaska.
These dams were during the off peak time in night producing 50% unused electricity.
Because of time zones difference, it would be possible to transport this 50% over
2500km distance to US and use them, for profit of both sides. With further elaborating
of this situation Fuller created World Wide Network of electrical energy, where of
peaks and loads were efficiently combined. Efficiency of this network was twice as
efficient as current network. R. Snyder was fascinated by this project: “with this
project you could really see for the first time what the Design Science Revolution
could mean if it was applied at right scale.” (M. Pawley 1990, 164)
In the next workshop at university of Pennsylvania, he continued the problematiqe of
world energy network. With student they complete studies of energy. Fuller thought
about the cleanest energy source tidal power. Distribution of this energy around world
in interconnected network passing continents and oceans. Wind power is very
inefficient when used together with batteries. Energy lost for charging the battery and
the using it is around 50%. Fuller counted that wind is always blowing within 150 km
radius, which is already setting up whole earth patter of wind energy. (R. B. Fuller
Beside the Global electrical circuit project Fuller and his student elaborated also
other examples how to apply World Game to real life situation. If the weather patters
on Earth would be examined and understood than the agricultural growth would be
place into most suitable place to support humanity with adequate amount of food. (R.
B. Fuller, The world game: integrative resource utilisation planning tool 1971, 23)
In 1970 the budget for world game is cut and in 1971 he lost main funding provided
by Southern Illinois University. To continue his research is financing the research
from his own money.
Later in 70s Bucky moved to East Philadelphia, where he established “World Fellow
in residence by a consortium of the University of Pennsylvania, including Haverford,
Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr colleges, and the University Science center.” In
Pennsylvania he also established World game Institute in 1972 together with, Medard
Gabel, Howard J. Brown and others to continue research of world planning. In 2001
was this task moved to o.s.Earth which is offering possibility to play World Game
even today, and access to most complete database of world resources.
In the 1970’s Buckminster Fuller’s World Game was joined with set of another
enthusiast and his world game was not anymore the only project about planning in
world scale or the world model on the scene. In 1969 Fuller was preparing
documents for computer patent. Starting from 1971 until 1995 Amy Bruton10 had
listed another 25 world models, form whose many was created around 1970’s. This
boom was caused by several factors, where as the most important was boom in
computer technologies, and oil crises and published pictures by NASA showing
whole earth. From those models there is one which achieved world’s attentions. It
was world3 published in Club of Rome’s first report Limits to the growth in 1972.
The Club of Rome was created in 1968 as an association gathering a number of
business man, scientists, politicians and other thinkers to contribute and research for
better world. In the early years they was focused on global problems - „world
problematique“ and they were first who doubted the optimistic views of progress in
post war period. As a result of their research, they published together 33 reports,
from which the most influencing was their first report called Limits to Growth.11 David
Bell calls the representatives of Club of Rome the “intellectual technologists of postindustrial
society.” (Simmons 1973)
A limit to Growth (1972) was compiled by team of experts from U.S and several other
countries. (D. H. Meadows 2004) The approach with which they tried to achieve their
results was a computer dynamic simulation method called “system dynamics”. It was
developed by Professor J.W. Forrester who at that time was using this method for
industrial management and urban planning. On 1 July 1970, he was invited to
present his works to Club of Rome’s meeting in Geneva. For this occasion he drew a
diagram how to apply system dynamics for world problems and he marked it as
World1. On this diagram he created first simulation model (World2)12, which was
further more elaborated by team led by D.L. Meadows (World3)12. Aside Club of
Rome Forrester continued to develop his World2 and published his finding in 1971 in
book World Dynamics.
World3, created in 1970-1972 in language DYNAMO, is simulation model used to
create all scenarios presented in Limits to Growth. The main goal of World3 was
published in preface of Limits to Growth, however it was rather general. More
technical set of goals as presented by D. Meadows:
“The mode actually observed in any specific case will depend on the characteristics
of the carrying capacity-the level of population that could be sustained indefinitely be
the prevailing physical, political and biological systems, and on nature of the growth
process itself. One of these four basic behavior modes must characterize any
physically growing quantity, such as pollution, productive capital, or food output. The
purpose of World3 is to determine which of these four behavior modes id most
characteristic of the globe’s population and materials outputs under different
conditions and to identify the future policies that may lead to a stable rather than
unstable behavior mode.” (D. L. Meadows 2001) To simulate these situations model
use conditional, imprecise projection of dynamic behavior modes which is caused
between other factors by simplifying reality to model. This approach is fundamentally
different form Fuller’s, but that will be discussed bit later. As a computer model it is
based on mathematic formulas, which giver result for theoretical scenarios, to keep
these formulas more simple and understandable, whole system is divided into, so
called, subsystems - capital and resources, agriculture, pollution and population.
Each of these subsystems is representing an index; these are changing though flows
like birth and death, investment and deprecitiation, pollution generation and pollution
assimilation, land erosion, land development. (D. H. Meadows 2004) All these stocks
are developed in nonlinear relations ship and data are running either in positive or
negative loops, which create big complexity of model itself.
This model and simulation based on it was made for 200 years, starting from 1900
and ending in 2100, the first 70 years are input data on which simulation is based.
Very similarly to Fuller idea of peace gaming, authors of world3 are referring only to
non military use. There are not parameters counting with death of people, destroy
capital or damage land caused by war. It has as well no ethnic, strife, corruption,
floods, earthquakes, nuclear accident, nor epidemics and diseases. The model
should represent upper most possibilities for real world. (D. H. Meadows 2004)
Same as World game, main question is „how may the expanding global population
and materials economy interact with and adapt to earth’s limited carrying capacity
over coming decade?“ (D. H. Meadows 2004) The model is a tool for understanding
of world system, instead of creating predictions. Limits in presented in Limits to
Growth by Club of Rome are both material and energy, and capacity of planet to
absorb pollutants. „There are limits, however, to the relates at which sources can
produce these materials and energy without harm to people, the economy or earth’s
process of regeneration and regulation. “ (D. H. Meadows 2004)
World3 and World Game are not just sharing the similar name. Both models are
based on scientific research, and data collection. Fuller used data from all human
existence and his often used chart with chemical elements starts in 1250, while
world3 just used data starting from 1900. Both models are computer based, but Fuller
uses computer mainly for visualizations data on computerized Mini Earth, while
Worldd3 is pure computer model.
World 3 is a simulation and World Game as presented for exhibition is a game.
Therefore world3 could be positioned between World design science decade
documents and research and World Game.
9. Stratagem difference between simulation and a game
The idea of game was also developed Meadows. In 1984 he created Stratagem
which is a playable version of simulations made by World3. Stratagem is a computer
assisted, role-playing game and was created as a teaching tool. The player, during
playing is learned assumptions of world3. To avoid prediction of player every time the
game is played, the scenario and outcome is slightly changed (D. L. Meadows 2001)
There is a difference between simulation and game. The main difference is in
possible time horizon and number of cycles that are possible, with simulation there is
not upper limit set, but a game this number has to be limited, otherwise player will get
bored. For the World3 and Stratagem one cycle is equal to length of half year.The model of world3 is so composed of 400 cycles but time range of Stratagem is
only 5 years of 10 cycles, which are exclusively place to the future.13 Stratagem is
very complex game and therefore at least five players are necessary to play it.
“During the play, teams develop their goals, analyze their decision, options, and
estimate which decision set will be most useful in moving them toward their goals.
Then, they make their decision and record them.” (D. L. Meadows 2001)
The winning of the game is not handled in traditional sense. The players compared to
World Game, can compete. Winning is measured how successful, players were
keeping advancing development in their country. Players of stratagem will learn how
to follow and pursue one of the many possible ways leading to sustainable
The scale of the games is totally different. While fuller World Game is self-teaching
players how to sustain earth for everyone, Stratagem played on national level.
Both Forrester in World dynamics and Meadows in Limits to growth, and Stratagem
are with their models first examining the reality, where both model forecast peaks
around 2050, following economic fall. Then both of them are searching for equilibrium
The Fuller’s scenarios do not count with any decrease in future. His scenarios are
focusing on how to use current possibilities to avoid any complications in the future.
His target is one step further, instead of creating equilibrium; he wants to reach
existenzmaximum14 for everyone.
10. Fuller vs. Club of Rome
Peder Anker in his essay Buckminster Fuller as Captain of spaceship earth and
Michael Hays in his book Buckminster Fuller: Starting with universe had an opinion
that World Game of Buckminster Fuller was source of inspiration for Jay Forrester,
Club of Rome and Meadows’ team. They hoverer are not showing any evidence, and
mentioned scientists are not mentioning Buckminster Fuller.
In order to find influence between Buckminster Fuller comprehensive design science
and Limits to Growth and World Dynamics there has to be examined their works from
There is a proof that Fuller created and published Word Game sooner than Forrester
or Meadows. Fuller’s ideas of world planning can be traced back to 1927, 8 and the
got in first shape in 1938, while Fuller was working for Fortune magazine. Fuller in his
works considered year 1961 as year when World Game was created, followed 1964
proposal for Montreal expo and 1969 speech in Congress/ (R. B. Fuller, The world
game: integrative resource utilisation planning tool 1971)
Meanwhile Jay Forrester came to MIT in 1939 and work as computer engineering. In
1956 he shifted his view to management and applied his experience form computer
systems to behavior of social systems. Dennis Meadows finish his studies and
started working as well at Sloan school of Management at MIT in 1969 under Jay
Forrester. On 1 July 1970 Forrester gave speech to Club of Rome and for this
purpose created World1 model. His publicity was growing and same as Fuller he
gave his speech in front of US conger in 1970.
Despite their main studies were in different fields - management and economics, it
would be very unusual if they would not know anything about research carried by
Fuller. From 1949 Fuller was giving lectures extensive over many universities in USA,
including MIT. And result of his work was massively published. Until 1970 when
Meadow’s team created World3, Fuller received several honorary degrees, build
Montreal Dome. It would be highly irresponsible from highly accredited scientists if
they would not take Fuller research into consideration.
There are more possible reasons why Fuller was usually not connected with System
Dynamics. Fuller was generally known as supporter of Technocracy movement,
which was also partly true, and this movement was as Harvey Simmons wrote in his
article System Dynamics and technocracy, strongly discredited by that time. They
have different views on politics, while Technocracy was claiming changes though
technology and seen politics as problem, Forrester was stressing that political
reforms were necessary. (Simmons 1973)
The other reason could be that even their model and research have similar base and
target; the results published in Limits of Growth are opposite. Also in 1973 Fuller
criticized Limits to growth as a Malthusian in 1973. (Fuller, Your Private Sky 1999)
In later works there are cross-references made. In 30 years update of Limits to
growth (2004) in chapter Tools for Transition to Sustainability, is Fuller quoted form
his work from 1981 – Critical path15 and Donnela Meadows in her essay The Grass
Doesn’t Pay the Clouds for the Rain again quotes Fuller16
11. Forget Fuller?17 (Conclusion)
Life and work of Richard Buckminster Fuller was a cyclical phenomenon of success
and failure. World Game despite refusal to represent “creative America” in Montreal
Expo ’67 became world recognized phenomenon, rapidly expanded from Southern
Illinois University to series of workshops, courses and seminars held on most
prestigious universities around world. World Game started new era of World
planning, thinking about consequences of human behavior and prepared ground for
computer driven world models.
However just in the most suitable time, when oil crises began (1973), personal
computers became widely available and environmentalist movements started to
flourish, his budget was firstly reduced in 1970, and following year rapidly cut. The
limits of the Growth became instant bestseller, while Fuller had to financing his
research in from his own money. He became a cult hero for counter culture, but he
was dismissed from research environment on universities.
Anthony Vilder concluded at the end of his article that the resistance against Fuller
started again in 1980s. The historians of Modernist architecture and postmodernism
were rarely mentioned Fuller, and if, than only with connection to Archigram. Only
Steward Brant brought back Fuller’s ideas in his Whole Earth Catalogue and 30
years later ANY magazine published special issue called Forget Fuller and made a
brief revival in 1997.
List of 25 world models published by GENI and composed Amy Bruton, was after
long time first publication which was dedicated to Buckminster Fuller. However World
Game is not included in this list and so the list start, despite the fact that Fuller was
working of computer patent and the first model than is World2 by J. Forrester. But
there is a fully working engine based on Fuller’s ideas - Global Recall 2.0, created by
World Game Institute/o.s. Earth. There are also other who don’t refer to Fuller. Peace
Gaming model created by Dr. Utsumi, is referring its origins to “original” idea to
lecture with Robert Noel in 1972. Despite the fact that “peace gaming” term is
recorded in Fuller’s congress speech in 1969.
Though the all quite years there were always some people who carried and were
inspired by legacy of Buckminster Fuller. Beside easy accessible archives of
Buckminster Fuller Institute, P. Anker mentioned that world game and resources
catalogues are available for everyone today and are carried by companies as Society
for Computer Simulation, the Earth System Resource Institute, the Big Picture Small
World, the Earth scope project, the global simulation Workshop and the Geographic
Information System. (Anker 2007)
Now at the edge of next oil crises, the sustainability is first topic in world policy. More
and more scholars are asking question how ecologic can be architecture and
technology, and searching for new answers. But some of the answers might not be
„don’t fight forces, use them.“
Shelter 5, 1932 (Fuller, Your Private Sky 1999)
(1) Vilder, A. “What Happened to the ecology? John McHale and Bucky Fuller revival”, AD
2010 11-12 Ecoredux
(2) STU, Bratislava, KTH Stockholm, TU Delft
(3) Adlai Stevenson, 1965, extract from his last speech: “ We travel together on a little
spaceship, dependent on its vunerable supplies of air asn soil….” (McHale, The changing
patter of futures research in the USA 1973)
(4) (Anker 2007)
(5) (Richter 1972)
(6) For example in his speech about World Game in front of committee on government
operations US, in 1969
(7) “I must be able convert the resources of earth, doing more with less, until I can reach a
point where we can do so much as to be able to service all men in respect to all their needs.
(R. B. Fuller 1980, 40)
(8) (R. B. Fuller, The world game: integrative resource utilisation planning tool 1971)
(9) Fuller used to illustrate this observation on case of landing airplane under conditions,
when pilot cannot use his vital senses
(10) for more information about history and findings of Club of Rome visit their web page
http://www.clubofrome.org (The Club of Rome 2011)
(11) Compared to first 70 years of data studies in cycles of World3 from 1900 to 1970
(12) Definition of bare existence maximum is in appendix E: Explanation of terms
(13) List of world models is in appendix F: World models
(14) Diagrams comparing World2 and World3 are in appendix D: Selected documents about
World2, World3 and Limits to Growth
(15) “All of humanity is in peril, said Buckminster Fuller, if each one of us does not dare, now
and henceforth, always to tell only the truth and all the truth, and to do so promptly – right
now.“ (Meadows 2004)
(16) Buckminster Fuller: "The world doesn't run on money. The grass doesn't pay the clouds
for the rain." (D. H. Meadows 2004)
(17) “Forget Fuller” is title of special issue of ANY magazine about Buckminster Fuller (ANY
13. A list of literature
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ANY. ANY magazine. 1997. http://www.anycorp.com/any_issue.php?id=18 (accessed 10 2,
Bruton, A. "Global Model Index." Geni. 2010.
http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/geni/globalmodelindex.shtml (accessed 09 26,
Buckminster Fuller Institute. World Design Science Decade Documents. 2010.
http://bfi.org/about-bucky/resources/world-design-science-decade-documents (accessed 09
Club of Rome. "CV: Dennis Meadows." Club of Rome.
http://www.clubofrome.at/about/dennismeadows.html (accessed 09 27, 2011).
Cole, H, S, D. "The structure of the world models." Futures (IPC Bussiness Presss Limited)
5, no. 1 (1973): 14-32.
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Dictionary.com.
HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/utopia (accessed 09 16,
Dusini, M. Springerin.
http://www.springerin.at/dyn/heft.php?id=32&pos=1&textid=1188&lang=en (accessed 09 24,
Fuller, R. Buckminster. Design Initiative. Carbondale: Souther Illinois University, 1964.
—. Ideas and Integrities. Baden: Lars Muller Publishers, 2010.
—. The world game: integrative resource utilisation planning tool. Carbondale: Souther
Illinois University, 1971.
Fuller, R. Buckminster. "The Year 2000." Architectural Design, no. 02 (1967).
—. Your Private Sky. Baden: Lars Muller Publishers, 1999.
Fuller, R. Buckminster, McHale J. Inventory of world resources, human trends and needs.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1963.
Fuller, R. Buckminster, Snyder R. Buckminster Fuller, An Autobiographical
monologue/scenario. New York: St.MArtin's press, inc., 1980.
Future Dialogue. "Dennis L Meadows." future dialogue. 2011. http://www.futuredialogue.
org/_img/_common/press/Siemens_AS27811.jpg (accessed 10 4, 2011).
Hays, K. M., Miller, D. Buckminster Fuller: Starting with universe. New Haven: Whitney
Museum if American Art, 2008.
Makovsky, P., Lanks, B., Pedersen, M. C. The Fuller Effect. 06 16, 2008.
http://www.metropolismag.com/story/20080716/the-fuller-effect (accessed 09 15, 2011).
Massey, A. The Independent Group - John McHale. 2007-2009.
http://www.independentgroup.org.uk/contributors/mchale/index.html (accessed 09 16, 2011).
McHale, J. "Buckminster Fuller." The Architectural Review 120, no. 714 (july 1956): 14-18.
McHale, J. "Richard Buckminster Fuller." Architectural Design, no. 07 (1961): 290-316.
—. The ecological context: energy and materials. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University,
McHale, J. "The changing patter of futures research in the USA." Futures (IPC Bussiness
Presss Limited) 5, no. 3 (1973): 257-271.
McHalle, J. "Future of the Future." Architectural Design, no. 02 (1967).
McLeod, J. "Simulation as Possible Tool for Peace." Simulation (Sage), May 1999: 348-352.
MEadows, D, H, Rander, J, Meadows, D,L. " Limits to growth the 30 year ypdate." Google
6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=full (accessed 09 27, 2011).
Meadows, D. H. "The Grass Doesn't Pay the Clouds for the Rain." Sustainability Institute.
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10 2, 2011).
Meadows, D. H., Randers J., Meadows D. L. A Synopsis Limits to Growth The 30-Year
update. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004.
Meadows, D. L. "Tools for understanding the limits to growth: Comparing a simulation and a
game." Simulation & Gaming (Sage Publications) 32, no. 4 (December 2001): 522-536.
o.s.Earth. o.s.Earth. 2008. http://www.osearth.com/ws_history.shtml (accessed 10 01, 2011).
Pawley, M. Buckminster Fuller. London: Trefoil publications, 1990.
Pearce C., Fullerton T., Morie J. F. "Sustainable play, toward a New Games Movement for
the Digital age." Games and Culture 261, no. 2 (2007).
Richter, D. L. "The World of Buckminster Fuller." Architectural Forum 136, no. 1 (1972): 49-
Simmons, H. "System dynamics and technocracy." Futures (IPC Bussiness Presss Limited)
5, no. 2 (1973): 212-228.
Streatfeild, G. "John McHale 1922-1978: futures studies pioneer." Futures, no. 02 (1979): 86-
Stretfield, G. "World dynamics challenged." Futures (IPC Bussiness Presss Limited) 5, no. 1
The Club of Rome. "About the CLUB OF ROME." The Club of Rome. 2011.
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Thissen, W. Investigations into the Club of Rome's World3 model. Meppel: Krips Repro,
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(accessed 09 27, 2011).
Vilder, A. "What Happened to the ecology? John McHalle and Bucky Fuller revival."
Architectural Design, no. 11-12 (2010): 24-31.
a. Brief chronology of Richard Buckminster Fuller
c. Selected World Design Science Decade’s and World Game documents
d. Selected World2, World3 and Limits to Growth documents
e. Explanation of selected terms
f. List of World simulation models
design: Vladimir Ondejcik (c)Vladimir Ondecik 2011