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Deconstructing the Dome: Bucky’s Nightmare by Mathieu Lehanneur

Paris-based designer Mathieu Lehanneur simultaneously honors and impugns the famed architect and kook Buckminster Fuller with his recent creation, parodically entitled "Bucky's Nightmare." Lehanneur's piece of furniture reinterprets the geodesic dome, which although not created by Buckminster Fuller, was patented and popularized by him (credit for the invention of the geodesic dome goes to Walther Bauersfeild). To adequately understand Lehanner's object, it is necessary to know something of the mastermind behind its inspiration.

Bucky's Nightmare. Designed by Mathieu Lehanneur.

Harvard drop-out (actually he was kicked out twice, once for hosting a group of traveling dancing girls, then for displaying apathy), Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller became an inventor, philosopher, architect, artist, environmental activist, and guru. Fuller was so well-known for his geodesic domes that he was memorialized for them when scientists renamed fullerenes buckyballs (the carbon molecules resemble geodesic spheres). While geodesic domes and spheres have inspired architectural wonders the world over, they are more often associated with unstable personalities—the type of people living out in the middle of nowhere drawing water from magic springs in order to hydrate their aliens. But Fuller's idiosyncrasies should not negate his contributions to the world, especially in the fields of art and architecture (on the other hand, if you're interested in Fuller's particular brand of crazy, check out his now-defunct artistic commune Drop City and his 1970 book I Seem to be a Verb).



Lehanneur's "chair" pays homage to Fuller. On the designer's website, he states, "Buckminster Fuller stands for science fiction made into real architecture." If Lehanneur intends to commemorate Fuller, then why is his creation labeled "Bucky's Nightmare"? The answer is simple: Bucky's Nightmare "deflates tensegrity to kick research into blob structures." As you might have surmised, tensegrity is vital to a successful geodesic dome, so its deflation would necessarily disturb the dead Fuller. However, I would argue that Bucky's Nightmare, like all true parodies, praises its predecessor even as it deconstructs and recreates. Lehanneur's "biomorph leather island" adapts to the human body at every turn, supporting weight in inventive ways. And as it conforms to the homonid form, Bucky's Nightmare shifts into different shapes, making the furniture a three-dimensional art object in its own right. Mathieu Lehanneur has concocted a fluctuating and commutative piece, proving what Buckminster Fuller said about designers: "A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist."

Posted April 27th, 2009 by Alicita Rodriguez


  • Julia says:

    Bucky’s nightmare would be to make a stupid chair out of a structure that he wanted to use to house humanity. I worked with him and his intention was to provide housing for the homeless not inspire an overpriced mockery of a shape. Who is the kook in this case?

  • Mr. Reeee says:

    Buckminster Fuller a kook? 20th Century Da Vinci.
    He wasn’t an architect, either.

  • It’s good to see that people are commenting on Buckminster Fuller, since he is the inspiration point behind Lehanneur’s chair. However, commenters are assuming quite a few things that are incorrect. The first starts with my use of the word kook, which is defined as “someone REGARDED as eccentric or crazy or standing out from a group.” I do not use this word pejoratively. Kooks throughout time have foreseen what most of society misses, which is why most of society regards them as kooks (and why history later proves these kooks to be something else entirely, such as genius in the case of Da Vinci).

    The second assumption is that I am unaware that Fuller was not an architect ON PAPER. While he did not earn a degree in architecture, he is generally considered to have been an architect, among many other things. The comment about that seems ironic, given that a piece of paper from a university doesn’t qualify anyone to BE anything (in fact, the view that a degree grants authority would go against Fuller’s idiosyncratic mindset). Fuller did, however, earn many honorary degrees, quite a few in architecture, and is generally accepted as having worked as an architect or within the field of architecture.

    I’ve added some links to reliable sources below regarding both Fuller’s “kooky” personality and his credentials. Finally, just a little note to say that regarding design, philosophy, and architecture, many opinions should be welcome. Labeling Lehanneur’s chair “an overpriced mockery” does nothing but shut down communication. His chair could very well create interest in Fuller’s work among people who had never heard of Fuller. The saddest thing about these comments is that they immediately attack other people’s opinions and creations instead of open a dialogue. And they also ignore the humor in the article—and a decided lack of a sense of wit and irony serves no one.

    Regarding Fuller not being an architect:
    “Fuller — or Bucky, as Cunningham and everyone else called him — is an impossible figure to pigeonhole. He was an architect without a license, an artist who couldn’t do perspective drawing, a professor who’d been thrown out of Harvard (twice) and never earned a college degree. He was also called a poet, a philosopher, a futurist, a visionary, a genius and sometimes a crackpot. … The limitlessness of his thinking can sometimes strike you as kind of arrogant or even nutty, but it’s inspiring nonetheless.”
    —from Cathleen McGuigan “Bucky’s Very Large Dome” in Newsweek 151 no 26 48-50 2008

    “Since that time Fuller’s projects have encompassed the fields of engineering, architecture, mathematics, geography, and mechanics.”
    —from “Buckminster Fuller” in Perspecta (MIT Press) 1952-071: 29-37

    For a list of Fuller’s honorary degrees:

  • […] receiving lots of negative comments regarding Bucky’s Nightmare—some with so much vitriol I feared for my life—I am once again assigned to cover a Mathieu […]

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