Some of Bucky's Legacy


Many people are aware of Buckminster Fuller's architectural and engineering innovations that led to the discovery of the first C60 Fullerene - named after Fuller as Buckminsterfullerene.

Fuller developed structural geometries using a geodesic approach

  • While some Bucky enthusiasts love his nerdiness, many more misunderstand, or underestimate him.
  • At first glance, his works simply resemble advanced engineering, or cool product designs (e.g. his Dymaxion House).
  • However, a key characteristic is their highly comprehensive nature and the way they challenge the prevailing paradigm.
  • Although these ideas are in the public domain, many have yet to be applied within other fields.


Fuller's 11-seater Dymaxion car (1933)

Mr. Fuller is a hard act to follow

  • Buckminster Fuller always started by thinking of the universe, then zooming into detail.
  • This is useful - the threat of extinction means we need to see the big picture.
  • We must step back and become (as) radical, and (as) practical as he was.
  • He called for a comprehensive, anticipatory design science (See Wikipedia version of Design Science)
  • The ambitious scale of his thinking inspired the metadesigners agenda and task list.
  • E.g. how can design remain anticipatory if it also needs to be much more comprehensive?
  • Metadesign might be seen as a way to turn the 'Fuller' paradigm into a 'fuller paradigm'.
  • While challenging Fuller's ideas may upset some devotees, we think it is needed.
  • Fuller was pragmatic, and anticipated some recent brain science in his outline for total thinking.
  • We need to develop this in a more embodied, distributed and self-reflexive way.
  • All this needs further interpretation, sharing and co-development.

A Synergy-of-Synergies

In our view, an effective Design Science (e.g. metadesigning) should seek to catalyse a general, emergent ‘synergy-of-synergies’. This might be achieved by asking many network members to develop one keystone synergy. This would release more opportunities and collaborative synergies. It takes a minimum of 2 players, or ‘agents’ (i.e. facilitating 1 possible relation) for a ‘first order synergy’ to emerge. (i.e. what happens when two, or more agents combine to create a new outcome whose properties exceed the sum of properties of the individual agents.)

bucky_fuller.jpg Bucky-gravestone-trimtab-1.jpg

Bucky's gravestone carries the name trimtab - one of his key concepts

Constant Relative Abundance

Subsequent ‘orders’ of synergy emerge when first order synergies are combined to create new synergies. This process may continue into successive orders, although their increase is dependent on the number of agents at level one. Hence, for example, 2 agents cannot produce any subsequent orders of synergy. A cluster of three interactive agents can only produce three synergies at each subsequent order, up to infinity. With more than three agents, the rise in the ratio of primary agents to subsequent orders of synergy is exponential. For example, a cluster of 4 interactive agents would produce a maximum of 6 first-order synergies, which could produce 15 second-order synergies, which could produce 105 third-order synergies, etc. We developed a small-scale tool called quadratic innovation, which is inspired by Fuller’s thinking about the tetrahedron (see our introduction to tetrahedral logic. We have used this model to facilitate a number of parallel innovations. This can satisfy the apparently incommensurate requirements of different vested interest groups.

Open Source co-authoring as Continuous man

The global challenge may be too complex for individual designers. An effective Design Science of metadesign would address issues that exceed the expertise of individual designers. Its practice is always, therefore, self-managed by self-selection (or ‘casting’). This is another important level of synergy in which the team’s output would surpass the outcomes of individual participants. Metadesign should foster, and benefit from, ‘team consciousness or network consciousness (Backwell & Wood, 2010). This enhances what we call sympoiesis (Van Nieuwenhuijze & Wood, 2006), in which the quality of outcomes is better than the best work by either/any members of the team. More complex versions of this model is what Bert Hellinger calls a ‘field of shared knowing’ (Hemmings, 2008) that is too complex, intangible and tacit to quantify. This enables metadesign teams to deliver many-layered, integrated innovations.


We believe that Metadesign should be able to develop fractal structures for orchestrating very large systems. Where traditional design referred to discrete forms or products, what is needed today is a system that can intervene, in an ethical way, at the level of actions, habits, beliefs and ecological systems. Actual, living systems (as opposed to hypothetical, virtual, or schematic systems) always exceed expectations, so cannot be managed with the crude politics of government. Similarly, they cannot be reliably ordered using traditional 'design'. This calls for mapping, modelling and draughting systems that go beyond their 'topological realities' (see fractal dimensions). Metadesign offers a (generic, four-fold) relational model of ethical praxis whose elements are configured as a fractal structure. This means that it can be re-scaled from the smallest (e.g. individual citizen) to the largest (e.g. global society) without compromising its form. This has the advantage that it is a configuration that is shareable across very different domains, territories, cultures etc.


These derive from Paul Taylor's website Nous, which was created as the content for a hypertext system I/we invented in the early 1990s.

(from Paul Taylor's website)(from our website)
orange-dotted-line.png orange-dotted-line.png
4-D housingArchitecture for the 22nd century
BankingNew currency system thinking
Constant relative abundance-------Principle applied in quadratic innovation
Constant relative abundance-------Also applied in our win-win x 6 system
Continuous manOpen Source sympoiesis
Design covariableswin-win x 6
Design sciencemetadesign (more self-reflexive?)
Design science revolutionWorking towards a paradigm change
EcologyOne of our key aims is to emulate its workings
Ecological controlsOne of our key aims seeks to apply them
EntropyOne of our key aims seeks to reduce it
Prime DesignComparable with our idea of metadesign
Reform the environmentRe-language the paradigm
ScarcityIs often a cultural construct.
Synergeticssome small steps taken
SynergyMuch work needed for mapping synergy at more levels
Teleology'Sustainable' does not always mean 'extensible in time'
Ecological geometryOur idea of 'ecologies of scale'

Thinking Beyond the Possible

In seeking to change paradigms, metadesigners leverage the opportunities for change by reframing what ‘is’. If we believe that something is possible it has far more chance than if we believe it to be impossible. We therefore have devised a tool for thinking beyond the ‘possible’. This reminds designers that many future solutions are currently ‘unthinkable’ but ‘possible’. People tend to confuse the ‘unthinkable’ with the impossible’, but if they try to ‘re-language the impossible’ they make it ‘discussable’. This makes it more ‘thinkable’. Once the 'thinkable' is shared it seems more attainable. Once the ‘attainable' is perceived to be attractive it is likely to be applied ‘across the board’.

For a fuller look - see Buckminster Fuller Institute or Paul Taylor's website
See Making Dover a Synergy Town
Return to HomePage