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Geodesic Tomes

Geodesic Tomes
10 August 2020

The arrival of Heimplanet and their geodesic tents, took our collective minds to two reference books that we have in the office and which also played a key part in the conception and design of our stores.

Hippie Modernism is a compendium of new-wave thinking and artistic design, which includes Drop City, a key reference point for us, but also with clear parallels to Heimplanet’s tents. Now the irony of comparing a counter cultural commune which utilised scrap to build their geodesic domes with Heimplanet’s expensive high-performance tents is not lost on us, but you can’t deny that they share some common design language at the very least. Inspired by design maverick Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, four former University of Kansas and University of Colorado art students bought a seven-acre plot of land in Colorado and built their domes using scavenged wood, and salvaged car parts, creating colourful domes which they ‘dropped’ amongst the arid landscape.

• Clark Richert, Views of Drop City, The Complex, in El Moro, outside Trinidad, Colorado c. 1966

There’s some serious physics at play in the principle of a geodesic dome, which goes a way to explaining their use, it’s safe to say it’s a structure of superior stability and strength given to its ability to distribute structural stress. But there is also reasoning to suggest there is a connection to the human spirit and the way these structures make us feel, Buckminster Fuller himself was a transcendentalist, a philosophy that assumes people have a knowledge beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel. This is not in a religious sense but as an intuitive way of understanding the world around us and our place in it.

• Buckminster Fuller in 1979 with its sphere of tensegrity, steering wheel prototype city. Credit: PBS
• The Montreal Biosphere is a museum dedicated to the environment in Montreal, Canada. It is housed in the former United States pavilion constructed for Expo 67 located within the grounds of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen's Island. The museum's geodesic dome was designed by Buckminster Fuller.

Another pertinent section covers Instant City, a collection of colourful inflatable buildings which was erected in 1971 at the snappily named 7th Congress of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. The participants used the structures for meetings and events and also as living spaces for the duration of the conference. Also notable is Ken Isaacs modular structure Beach Matrix, which was a capsule type dwelling raised off the floor on stilts which looked like it should be part of a lunar landing.

• Ken Isaacs, Beach Matrix, installation view in Westport, Connecticut, c. 1967
• Victor Papanek and James Hennessey, Relaxation Cube from Nomadic Furniture 1, 1973

The Last Whole Earth Catalog (sic) is the other book on our shelves which doesn’t collect dust for long. A totem of counter-culture thinking, it was published between 1968 and 1972 and sporadically in the years that followed. A magazine which reviewed products, from woodwork tools, to outdoor gear, to mushroom guides and everything in-between. It carried the tag line ‘access to tools’ and Its core principle was self-sustainability and self-sufficiency with a holistic editorial approach. It’s a source we return to often.

• Detail from The Last Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand, June 197

Want to hear/see more?
Check out the trailer for the Drop City Documentary on Vimeo, it's a fascinating recounting of the history of the famed countercultural community

Read Droppers by Mark Matthews which chronicles the rise and fall of Drop City as recounted by former residents.

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