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.”
“Radicals by rock-solid quality craftsmanship and durable design” – that is the motto of the new furniture line Atelier Pfister. Accompanied by world-renowned designer Alfredo Häberli eleven young Swiss designers develop the brand a completely new collection. Among the emerging designers are also those that are already well known, including, for example, Jörg Boner. For the line, Atelier Pfister will make approximately 50 new products in the areas of eating, sleeping, living and working. The collection will be available in the autumn exclusively for Atelier Pfister.
Neues Schweizer Design (New Swiss Design), by Pfister
One of the really great figures of design – Alessandro Mendini – is curating and designing a retrospective of the last 30 years of Italian design specially for Die Neue Sammlung. Mendini focuses his exhibition on a key player in the design world: the Alessi company, which has very successfully morphed from a small metal-working firm into a creative factory in the field of design with global operations. Not only with its products but above all through its influential ideas, actions and meta projects Alessi wrote European design history and provided inspiration for reflections on the future of design.
Objects and Projects – Alessi: History and Future of an Italian Design Factory, May 22 – September 19, Die Neue Sammlung Museum, Munich, Germany
Shape & Form was inspired by architecture and the textures and shapes that surround everyday life. The wallpapers feature geometric shapes, optical illusions, and natural forms which explore the ways light and shadow affect perceptions. Graham & Brown has created a unique collection that fuses simple designs with complex techniques; including high gloss, metallic sheens and fine tones that embellish and conjure optical effects.
Shape & Form Wallpaper, by Graham & Brown
The recent Oceanic and African Art Auction at Sotheby’s in Paris included this Kulango Pounder Spoon from Côte d’Ivoire.
Kulango Pounder Spoon, Hammer Price: € 78,750, Oceanic and African Art Auction,
Sale PF1017, Sotheby’s, Paris
Tokujin Yoshioka has designed a perfume bottle concept, in collaboration with Swarovski, with a throughly new approach which is to affect the senses; rather than by rearranging visual shapes, the intent of the symbolic design is to bottle crystal within perfume, and to let the crystal fit in the scent. The concept is “wearing the scent of crystal.”
The upcoming Design auction at Phillips de Pury in New York includes some important early works by Marc Newson as well as some more recent prototypes.
Top to Bottom:
Pod of Drawers, 1987, by Marc Newson
Fiberglass-reinforced polyester resin core, blind-riveted sheet aluminum, paint. Produced by Basecraft for Pod, Australia. From the edition of ten plus two artist’s proofs and one prototype. Estimate $300,000-500,000
Prototype Micarta desk, 2006, by Marc Newson
Linen phenolic composite. Prototype for the edition of ten plus two artist’s proofs.
Prototype Voronoi Shelf, 2006, by Marc Newson
Bardiglio marble. Prototype for the edition of eight plus two artist’s proofs.
Event Horizon Table, 1992, by Marc Newson
Enameled aluminum, polished aluminum. Produced by Pod Edition, UK. Artist’s proof for the edition of ten. only example produced with a yellow body. Estimate $250,000-350,000
Marc Newson Works, Design Auction at Phillips de Pury & Company,
June 9, 2010, New York
Triennale Design Museum presents a selection of over sixty table lamps designed and made in the 1960s and early 70s, dubbed by historians of design as “Space Age”, it is an era of great social change, but also the era in which international politics were focused on the imaginary collective achievements as a landing space for a fruitful and truly progressive modernity.
The lamps on display come from international collections, ranging from the mass produced, to pieces made by well known designers such as Joe Colombo, Vico Magistretti, Gino Sarfatti and Giotto Wick.
Space Age Lights, 12 May – 05 September, Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy
Austro-American architect Richard Neutra (born 1892 in Vienna, died 1970 in Wuppertal), one of the most important representatives of “classic Modernism”, was best known for his houses in Southern California. His designs combined light metal structures with stucco elements to create light, pervious ensembles, which he embedded with great sensitivity in carefully arranged gardens and landscapes.
For the first time ever architectural projects will be shown that he realized in Europe in his 10 final creative years (1960 – 1970). He created eight villas, four in Switzerland, three in Germany and one in France.
Richard Neutra in Europe: Buildings and projects 1960 – 1970, 8 May – 1 August 2010, at MARTa Herford Museum, Herford, Germany
Photography (top to bottom): Iwan Baan, Karl-Hugo Schmölz, Unknown, Charles E. Young Research Library UCLA, Martin Hesse, and Martin Hesse.