Buckminster Fuller, the visionary engineer, architect, and theorist, was committed to designing and bringing about a new world. With the Dymaxion Map, he literally reshaped it.
Now, 70 years after its first publication, the iconic triangular map is being reimagined by the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) in New York. Earlier this year, they invited international designers and “citizen cartographers” to submit new interpretations of Fuller’s worldview on paper, or as he called it, the “Dymaxion Air-Ocean World Map.” Eleven finalists were announced last week; expect a winner to emerge this week.
“We find the Dymaxion Map to be a great entry into a lot of Bucky’s concepts,” BFI’s Will Elkins tells Co.Design. The hundreds of designs submitted to the DYMAX REDUX competition affirm that, that the original work inspired a vast range of original and aesthetically exciting submissions, moving entrants to visually consolidate Fuller’s ideas and contextualize them for today’s environment.
Fuller intended his cartographic turn to introduce a new scientific-humanist paradigm. The Dymaxion Map was an extension of his totalizing project to rid society of centuries of inequality. It made its debut in a 1943 issue of Life, reconfiguring what much of the public and even scientific community accepted as the standard for representing our globe: the Mercator project of the Earth, with all its socioeconomic and western-centric biases.
The Dymaxion corrects these prejudices, primarily by doing away with what Fuller called the “historical east-west orientation intertia” built into traditional representations. Instead, the continents are arranged in a linear column running north to south, forming a nearly continuous land mass. The effect is of a new perspective of the planet, the place where we live represented as “one island in one ocean.” According to the Life article, “the Dymaxion World map is a means by which he can see the whole world fairly and all at once.”
As a visual artifact, the map’s serrated geometry is arresting. Fuller deflated the globe and flattened it into a series of 20 interconnected triangles; arranged vertically they produce an icosahedron. The motif corresponds to Fuller’s geodesic geometry, explains Elkins, who adds that the map’s irregular, zig-zag outline, combined with the revolutionary zest its creator imbued it with, make it “appealing and ideal for interpretation.”
For the most part, the shortlisted designs take the map’s geometry as an organizing device and arrange their data sets from there. “In Deep Water” submerges the Dymaxion continents quite literally in a sea of triangles, which bear text and statistics about the lack of safe drinking water available to a large part of the world (roughly one in nine people). The “Dymaxion Woodocean World” triangulates continents according to the percentage and type of forest area they contain, while the “Geography of Violence” pushes the geometric motif too far and eschews the global template in the process. “Timezones” perhaps makes the most interesting application of Fuller’s one-island imagery. Through color and polygons, it pieces together “a view of the world in 24 different time zones at the same moment in time.”
All 11 final designs will be exhibited in a New York gallery in the fall. The winning entry will be produced as a poster that will be sold at the BFI shop.