The Moment



September 1947

Bennington was keen on Bucky from the get-go. In 1932 President Leigh and the faculty create lists of the most desired speakers for the Evening Meetings. They know they want Fuller, even if they aren't quite sure of the name of his new idea, initially referring to it as the "Dynoxer House" (the New York Times had the same problem, referring to it as "Dimaxian", "Dy-maxion", and "Di-maxion" in various articles.) They might not know the exact name but they understand the importance of the idea: they know it is innovative, they know it is exciting, and they know it is Bennington.

In Bennington's first academic year 1932-33, the idea of the Evening Meetings was integral to President Leigh's educational planning and philosophy for the college: performances, readings, lectures, and discussions from across the academic disciplines which everyone would attend. The meetings for the first academic year were ambitious and diverse. There was the Symposium on Modernism organized by Irving Fineman in "which the most modern developments and tendencies in some one of the arts...will be discovered and considered." There was a Presidential campaign series with four nights of speakers from the Republican, Communist, Democratic, and Socialist parties. The Communist and Socialist speakers were the most popular of the series, each drawing about fifty-five percent more audience members. Martha Graham's performance drew the largest audience of the year, more than double the number who came to Robert Frost's well-attended reading. Fuller was scheduled to talk in May of 1933. His audience would have some familiarity with his topic because earlier that month Robert McLaughlin, architect and founder of American Houses, Inc., lectured on "Steel Houses" and Catherine Bauer Wurster, an urban planner and public housing advocate, lectured on "Modern Housing". His topic was "Architecture & Design." It was well-received and in 1937 Fuller returned to campus to discuss "The Economic Responsibility of Invention" in the Barn.

In 1942, under the auspices of the new Bennington College president, Lewis Webster Jones, a bold collaboration began: installing a Dymaxion Deployment Unit on campus. On May 27 Jones sent a telegraph to Fuller to let him know the Dymaxion parts had arrived. Fuller had originally intended to come that same month to oversee the assembly but conflicts delayed his visit. He came on September 15, arriving by train at the North Bennington station, and the assembly began. President Jones reported that, "The students of the College who helped Mr. Fuller put up the house had a delightful time doing so." The house was used in the warmer weather for visiting guests. Louis Horst stayed in it when the Martha Graham Company came in 1943 but ultimately alternative housing arrangements had to be made after his "traumatic experience" staying in the Dymaxion during an electrical storm.

By 1947 Bucky and Bennington are 14 years into their conversant and collaborative relationship. From the beginning all signs indicate that the enthusiasm Bennington has for Bucky is reciprocated. But September 1947 brings the most meaningful endorsement of all. Bucky and Anne's only living child, Allegra, has chosen to come to Bennington College for her education, and the Fullers are delighted.

From the Archive

Biography

Considered by many to be the first advocate for sustainability, Buckminster Fuller's imagination was years ahead of his time. Fuller was a frequent guest lecturer and visitor of Bennington College in the '30s and '40s. His daughter, Allegra Fuller Snyder '51, is a graduate of Bennington. Of her father she said that, "daddy was an incredible teacher and I happened to be privileged to be one of his students." Ms. Snyder still has sketches of the bedtime story Goldilocks and the Three Bears that her father employed to explain Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity: "I didn't know I was getting Einstein-but I did." Publishers gave Einstein an advanced copy of Fuller's book Nine Chains to the Moon so that he could confirm accuracy. The publishers were especially cautious of chapters where Fuller explained Einstein's thought process behind his discovery of E = mc² and theories of relativity. Einstein himself contacted Buckminster Fuller after reading it, "I am notifying your publishers that I approve your conception of my thinking process." Fuller was the recipient of the AIA Gold Medal, the Royal Gold Medal, and the St. Louis Literary Award.

Sources:
"Dome Sweet Dome." Sunday Morning. CBS. June 7, 2009. Online/Digital.
Fineman, Irving. Memorandum of Meeting on Program for Symposium on Modernism in the Arts. Bennington College Archive, Bennington. http://hdl.handle.net/11209/4694
Fuller, Buckminster, and Anwar Dil. Humans in Universe. New York, NY: Moulton, 1983. Print.
Jones, Lewis Webster. Buildings and Grounds - Series 2. Bennington College Archive: Bennington. Print.
Jones, Lewis Webster. Faculty Housing - Series 2. Bennington College Archive: Bennington. Print.
Leigh, Robert, D. Attendance and Expense Reports. 1932-1933. Bennington College Archive: Bennington. Print. http://hdl.handle.net/11209/4687
Leigh, Robert, D. Proposed Lecturers and Performers. 1932-1933. Bennington College Archive: Bennington. Print. http://hdl.handle.net/11209/4695
Sieden, Lloyd Steven. Buckminster Fuller's Universe. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2000. Print.