The 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge is upon us, and I’m thoroughly excited. The late R Buckminster Fuller was a modern-day renaissance man, whose contributions have had lasting effects in architecture, biology, chemistry and design. He was primarily concerned with one question: “Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?” This question is especially apt today. The Buckminster Fuller Institute-sponsored challenge aims to support design solutions that “present a bold, visionary, tangible initiative that is focused on a well-defined need of critical importance.” The following video sums up the institute’s goals for the challenge and presents past winners.
The deadline for this competition in November 7th 2008, and did I mention that the prize is for $100,000? The BFI is specifically looking for solution that are:
- Comprehensive— addressing the interaction of key issues responsible for present conditions; solving multiple problems without creating new ones;
- Anticipatory— factoring in critical future trends and needs as well as potential long term impacts of implementation;
- Ecologically responsible— reflecting nature’s underlying principles while enhancing the Earth’s life-support systems;
- Feasible— relying primarily on current technology and existing resources;
- Verifiable— able to withstand rigorous empirical testing;
- Replicable— able to scale and adapt to a broad range of conditions.
As a self-professed science and design geek, this contest’s purpose and methodology gets me all googly-eyed. I appreciate it when science is translated from bench top to the real world, but often this science, or more importantly the scientists behind it, don’t take the human factor into account. This is where good design comes in, designers understand human interaction with objects and solutions better than most. The integration of science and design can yield awe-inspiring innovations; when applied to some of the world’s most challenging problems “comprehensive anticipatory design science,” as Buckminster called this concept, truly epitomizes the pinnacle of human thought and ability. My opinion may be a bit biased, but once you see some of the entries in the Idea Index, I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from.