Three-quarters of a century after the last of the original models, Car #3, rolled off the production line, a new Dymaxion Car has been created, Car #4. Based on the drawings of Car #3 and painstaking analysis of Car #2, it was built in the English countryside in the East Sussex workshops of Crosthwaite & Gardiner, which specializes in restoring 1930s racing cars. The new car was commissioned by Norman Foster, the British architect of such modern landmarks as Beijing Airport, the new Reichstag in Berlin and the “Gherkin” in London. A passionate car collector, he undertook the project as a labor of love and an homage to R. Buckminster Fuller, who he met in 1971 and collaborated with until Fuller’s death in 1983.
Car #4 is now on display in “Bucky Fuller & Spaceship Earth,” an exhibition of Fuller’s work running through Oct. 30 at the Ivorypress Art + Books gallery in Madrid. The story of all four models is told in a new book “Dymaxion Car: Buckminster Fuller” published by Ivorypress, which is owned by Mr. Foster’s wife, Elena Ochoa Foster.
What a story. It begins with Mr. Foster’s moving description of Fuller as “a dear friend — as far as it is possible to be with someone who is also one’s mentor.” Jonathan Glancey, the British architectural critic, then recounts Fuller’s struggle to produce the cars that he envisaged as being but one component of a dazzlingly futuristic “Dymaxion world” for which he also intended to design housing, boats, maps and something sounding startlingly like a hovercraft.
As Mr. Glancey points out, it is a complex, often confusing tale. By 1933, when Fuller opened the Dymaxion Car workshop, he had made his name as a gifted and charismatic, but rambunctious, design maverick who had twice been expelled from Harvard and had started several ill-fated entrepreneurial efforts to manufacture his designs.
To develop the car he collaborated with two nearly as colorful characters. One was W. Starling Burgess, a Harvard dropout who had become a brilliant aviation engineer, yacht designer and poet, but also a womanizer, alcoholic and morphine addict. The other was Nannie Dale Biddle, a wealthy socialite and aviatrix who financed the project until she clashed with Fuller (an occupational hazard for his business partners) and fell for the dashing Burgess, becoming the fourth of his five wives.
Car #1 was built using the chassis frame, gearbox, running gear and V8 engine of a 1932 Ford Tudor sedan. Inspired by science, aviation and nautical design, Fuller and Burgess constructed a long, lean vehicle with two front wheels and one at the rear. The body was built like a boat with an aluminum-coated wooden frame. A fortnight before Car #1 was finished, Fuller told a journalist that it had already “done 100,000 miles” and that 100 more were being made.
This was nonsense, but Car #1 did make a triumphant journey to Manhattan before its fateful crash a few months later just outside Chicago, where it was to debut at the 1933 World’s Fair. It wasn’t to blame, but the tragedy cast a cloud over the Dymaxion project at a time when Car #2 was still under construction.
By the time it was completed in January 1934, Fuller had ousted the Burgesses and was preparing to start work on Car #3. He refined the design of each model and, though none of the three was quite as fast or fuel-efficient as he boasted, they could be driven for 35 miles a gallon, twice as far as a typical car of the time. The Dymaxion Car was also, as Mr. Foster puts it: “So visually seductive that you want to own it, to have the voluptuous physicality of it in your garage.”
Phasma is a hexapedal running robot that can run dynamically like a living organism. It is an attempt to depict life purely through its motion rather than its shape, by extracting the physics of running from living things and implementing that to the artifact. Phasma uses compliant components such as stainless steel springs and rubber joints to reproduce smooth and efficient locomotion seen in animals. Another interesting biomimicry applied in Phasma is the alternating tripod gait as seen in insects that provides excellent stability.
Created for ‘bones’ exhibition held at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, Tokyo 2009.
Phasma is based on iSprawl developed at BDML, Stanford University, USA.
Phasma: Six-legged Running Robot, by takram design engineering
Photography by Takashi Mochizuki
“VANMOOF was inspired by the good old-fashion Dutch bike”, explains the designer Sjoerd Smit, “we stripped the bike from whims that can only break or cause frustration and added innovation and style”. The VANMOOF is built from the day-to-day experience of cycling in Amsterdam, it has a striking aluminum rust-free frame with a highly advanced solar powered LED light system built inside the frame. Gone are the dynamo’s that add friction to the wheel, no more cables, and best of all for the urban rider, no more lights stolen off your bike!
VANMOOF Bicycles, by Sjoerd Smit, for VANMOOF
Scandinavian wooden toy car inspired by the classic Saab Roadster prototype 92001. The car looks as good as the original Saab cars from the 40s and 50s and is a fully functional push car, it even has a steering wheel made of wood and metal just like old sports car steering wheels. The prototype of the first Saab was drawn by the famous designer Sixen Sason, who also designed the the first Hasselblad camera.
This is one toy that will look good in the driveway.
The sleek aerodynamic form of the Thunderbolt’s titanium and sapphire envelope has its roots in Maximilian Büsser’s childhood passion for assembling model plane kits, though none looked remotely as futuristic as this. The striking transparent sapphire section of the case requires over 100 hours of machining and polishing to transform an opaque solid block of crystal into a complex, exquisitely curved panel allowing the light to come in and the beauty of Thunderbolt’s engine to stand out. Every component and form has a technical purpose; nothing is superfluous and every line and curve is in poetic harmony. Articulated lugs ensure supreme comfort. Highly legible time is a fringe benefit.
The Thunderbolt’s engine is the culmination of three long years of development. Each of the 300-plus components – including the regulator and even the screws – was developed specifically for this anarchistic calibre. Horizontally configured dual mainspring barrels drive two vertical gear trains, transferring power to the twin pods indicating hours/minutes and power reserve.
Horological Machine No4 Thunderbolt, by MB&F
A winner of the red dot award, the design of this eyewear series is inspired by the shape of a spiral, translating it into a delicate design – it features sensuously appealing functionality, yet at the same time also presents a new approach towards the understanding and construction of eyewear. The eyewear is focused around a spiral hinge of avant-garde appeal that is fascinating to almost any beholder – it makes the hinge look like a refined accessory, but actually it the basic design element.
Custom Bladeworks is about the search for the ultimate blade. Belgian designer Filip De Coene prefers simplicity in design and to assemble a knife with minimum of materials and parts; with this in mind he looks east to the traditional knife makers of Japan. Some of De Coene’s designs are modern versions of the Japanese kaiken and utilitarian hunting knives made from high-grade steel and carbon fiber.
Want to make your own? follow the tutorial.
Handbuilt Knives, by Filip De Coene, Custom Bladeworks
A winner of an iF Gold Award, Mark Sanders design for the IF Mode Folding Bicycle is aimed at commuters of the mobile generation who, until now, may have not considered cycling or folding bikes to be an option. IF Mode avoids oily chains, complex tubes with hidden dirt traps, and the clutter of traditional bike features. It takes seconds to unfold into a full sized street bike and weighing in at only 14.7kg (32lbs). The bike has a special handle so you can wheel it around much like airport luggage. With its green credentials and compact shape, Sanders says, the features and “uncluttered aesthetic offer a radical new image of what a bicycle can be.”
This is the 60th anniversary of the first production of one of the most revolutionary cameras in photographic history and it has inspired Minox to bring out the Minox CLX, the latest in the 8x11mm camera series. Walter Zapp’s legendary idea to design and make the Minox originated way back in 1922. The camera “was to be so small that it would disappear in a closed hand”. Although very much inspired by this idea, Walter Zapp was hindered again and again by various financial squeezes, and it took 13 years before he was able to file a patent application for the “Ur” Minox in 1935. The camera comes with a dark grey leather case, film, batteries as well as the famous measuring chain for close-focus shots.
Minox CLX, Special Edition, by Minox
Patrick Norguet has designed Plain Air an indoor air purifier. Plain Air cleans air by accomplishing three major tasks: Breaking down the main pollutants to avoid risk of people contracting ‘Sick Building Syndrome’, which causes nausea and dizzy spells to people who stay too long in a confined space; efficient disinfection of air-borne bacteria, spores, moulds, yeasts and viruses, and swift deodorization of unpleasant biological and chemical smells by changing contaminated elements into natural molecules. All three of these depolluting actions are carried out using the Photocatalysis Oxidation miniaturized technology developed by TLV, which uses Philips light sources to mineralize pollutant particles and turning them into natural molecules. The device has been tested by the Institut Pasteur and by University Hospitals in Lyons.