Tag Archives: Buckminster Fuller

Through the Triangular Looking Glass

I still haven’t got the hang of this self-promotion, so today I’m going to tell you about something I’m bad at again. It’s triangles. I cannot, for the life of me, think in triangular grids

I already knew that. When my daughter decided she wanted to be an architect, I realised how little I knew about architecture. I added Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes to my list of obsessions (nothing ever leaves), though they are arguably “machines for living”, so are structural engineering rather than architecture. When I tried to build models of domes, I found they broke my head. I can make them with my hands but I struggle to envision even the simplest of shapes. They seem to snap back into a rectangular grid while I’m fetching the next imaginary line. My daughter can do it. I guess that’s why she’s the Architect. My son didn’t get his ability to paint from me either. It’s like children’s futures aren’t predetermined by their genetics or gender. Weird!

Yesterday, for reasons we don’t need to worry about, I discovered I can’t even do triangles in 2D. I wanted to divide a triangle into triangular pixels, as you do. Same thing. As soon as I draw a line at 60 degrees to horizontal, my brain starts to interpret it as an over-keen isometric projection (I have a Technical Drawing ‘O’ Level. See, I CAN show off!)

I’ve wondered for a while what made early man give up building out of circles and triangles and move to verticals and rectangles. Perhaps it was this, or maybe my life in rectangular grids has trapped my thinking in the 90 degree corner. “Don’t put Baby in the corner!” They put Buckminster Fuller in the corner but he was very short-sighted, so he didn’t know and he built his kindergarten house out of triangles.

Have you ever considered whether the “Wonder” in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ referred not to wonderment but to wondering? I hadn’t until yesterday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMfCL5rX2fk



The Birmingham Coracle, or Pentacle

I think everyone knows by now that Birmingham has more than it’s fair share of canals. It extends out into much of the Midlands, including my home, around the Cannock Chase coalfields. I believe the canals are an under-utilised leisure and commuting resource.

For a while I’ve been thinking about a water-born version of the ‘fixie’ bike. Simple, fast, pure, water-transport for the young professional to get from an apartment on the outskirts to a job at a ‘digital’ agency with shower facilities. I’m still working on that.

For now, what is the cheap, portable, car-bootable version of my Daewoo folding bike, for the Brum waterside generation? A chat on the twitters with a couple of like-minded nutters concluded that it was the coracle. Now I’ve got nothing against the Welsh (or even people from Ironbridge) but has anyone really tried to improve the coracle in the last thousand years?
[Yes and they live just down the road from me but they made a wooden coracle out of glass-fibre and it costs about £300.]

Last night I decided to have a go. Using Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome ideas and my magnetic dome toys, I made a pentagonal coracle; a pentacle if you will. It doesn’t float but I think we can get past that. Maybe fewer ball-bearings?

This morning I scribbled on the photo to make it round. I imagine it being made by wrapping magic wands around a pentagonal jig of the floor shape. I hope that the seat could be made of a lightweight mesh hung from the top pentagon of the frame but traditional coracle seats are supported on posts on the floor, and maybe there’s a reason for that. I’m not sure about the gunwales (the top bit.) A draw string; a solid, slotted circle; caps sewn to the edges of a stretchy waterproof fabric?

In case I don’t do anything with this idea for the next 5 years, I thought I’d share it. You would need a canal licence, available through the British Canoe Union to float your boat on most canal navigations in the UK but would get considerable discount for not using the locks. Hepatitis and Weil’s disease aren’t particularly pleasant but the rats wouldn’t go in the canals if it wasn’t fun, amIright? There are lots of instructions on the interwebs of how to make a conventional coracle, should you hate my vision for the future of modern transport. Anything else I write about this ‘think’ will be in my book, ‘Finds and Thinks’ which would be a small yet unwise investment in the future of green technology and other insanity.


If it sinks, blame witchcraft, not me. <Invokes Maker spell>