Bucky Fuller Remembers Lincoln Park
July 23rd, 2009Filed under: Exhibitions
Buckminster Fuller poses at the wheel of his car of the future at the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago, 1933.
Leave it to Studs Terkel to interview Buckminster Fuller, one of the greatest American thinkers and visionaries of the 20th century, from the back of a rumbling station wagon during a 1969 tour of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The recording is one of the treasures we discovered while researching the exhibition Lincoln Park Block by Block.
In the late 1920s Fuller lived with his family in a cramped and drafty apartment in the Lincoln Park section of the North Side of Chicago, a place where he experienced some of his most desperate hours and most inspired ideas.
It is from Lincoln Park that he once contemplated suicide by drowning in Lake Michigan after the death of one of his daughters. From here he conceived designs for more efficient ways of living, structures and industrial designs in the fourth dimension, or time, that would come to be known as Dymaxion (standing for dynamic, maximum, ion). (Fuller originally referred to his ideas as “4D,” and the story goes that a marketing staffer at Marshall Field’s recommended changing the name to the catchier “Dymaxion” upon hearing Fuller describe his work). By 1929, Fuller had left Lincoln Park for New York, but by 1933 made a splash back in Chicago at the Century of Progress International Exposition, now behind the wheel of his Dymaxion automobile, as captured in this photograph from the Museum’s Hedrich-Blessing photography collection. What a difference a few years made!
Though Fuller and his wife went on to live comfortably in a geodesic dome of his own design, he never forgot their humble dwelling in Lincoln Park. On a wintry day in December 1969, Fuller and Terkel toured the neighborhood to see how conditions had changed (or stayed the same), and they were joined by Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez, a leader of the Young Lords Organization of local Puerto Rican youth. Jimenez’s family was displaced from the neighborhood by urban renewal decades after Fuller lived there. Fuller used strong words to describe the effects that urban renewal had on people of the community. Originally broadcast in 1970, the issues may sound familiar. One of the things about Lincoln Park that seems to stay the same is that it and its people never stop changing.
Listen to an excerpt from their interview: