Like Tesla before him, Buckminster Fuller is one of those weirdo geniuses whose failures are even more fascinating than his successes. You may know Fuller as the inventor of the geodesic dome—the futuristic structural concept used in Epcot’s iconic 18-story golf ball dome. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Fuller was a compulsive, lifelong innovator, and with a new book of illustrations, Cole Gerst celebrates the full spectrum of Fuller’s fascinating mental output.
Gerst, an illustrator and designer based in Portland, fell down the Fuller rabbit hole early last year and spent the last 12 months drawing scenes of his life and work. The result is a 200-plus page full-color book, Buckminster Fuller: Poet of Geometry, which offers a broad, accessible overview of the compelling figure.
The book’s got plenty of domes, naturally. But it also highlights some of Fuller’s lesser-known concepts, like the Dymaxion car, a streamlined, three-wheeled buggy with room for 11 passengers. A section on Fuller’s 4-D tower concept—a proposal for self-sufficient apartment complexes, prefabricated down to the typewriter in each unit, that would be installed on site via zeppelin—will give readers a sense of how the man approached design: with a joyous imagination, and an unbridled belief in its power to solve the world’s problems.
Like many, Gerst had known vaguely of Fuller as the dome guy, but when the name kept popping up he started to dig deeper. "I was enthralled by his story and couldn’t believe the amount of work he created," Gerst says. "I just thought I needed to share his story to those who might not know much about him."
He hopes his book will open Fuller up to new audiences. "After reading dozens of books and researching him intensely, I saw that most of the imagery based around him and his works are in black and white due to the era in which he was inventing and designing his ideas," he says. "I thought bringing in my style of colorful illustration might attract a whole new group of people that might not have been inclined to pick those other books up."
It just might work. Photographs are great for documenting historical figures, but imaginative characters like Buckminster Fuller deserve a different type of story.
A Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the book passed its goal with a few weeks to spare. Find out more about the project on its page.