101.01 Synergy means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately.

102.00 Synergy means behavior of integral, aggregate, whole systems unpredicted by behaviors of any of their components or subassemblies of their components taken separately from the whole.

-- R. Buckminster Fuller, Synergetics, 1975

Synergetics Collaborative Synergetics, in the broadest terms, is the study of spatial complexity, and as such is an inherently comprehensive discipline. ... Experience with synergetics encourages a new way of approaching and solving problems. Its emphasis on visual and spatial phenomena combined with Fuller's holistic approach fosters the kind of lateral thinking which so often leads to creative breakthroughs.

-- Amy Edmondson, A Fuller Explanation, 1987

SNEC Workshop on 28-29 June 2003 in Oswego, New York

Thank you to SUNY Oswego, Department of Technology, Design Studio for hosting this, the first, SNEC workshop!

Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic Structures

28-29 June 2003, Oswego, New York

This workshop provided an opportunity to build geodesics and explore their geometries. After the SARS epidemic forced Yasushi Kajikawa of Japan to abandon his trip leading the geodesic workshop, a new program had to be developed quickly. Joe Clinton, Fuller's colleague and protégé stepped in to create an educational hands-on geodesic experience. Joe traveled to Oswego and spent three days in the pre-planning, May 2-4. Professor John Belt graciously hosted the event, using his incredible studio facility at SUNY Oswego, Department of Technology with the help of his colleague Rich Bush (he also worked and supervised the milling of rotegrity materials with Matt Fisher, using Joe Clinton's jigs) and the enthusiastic participation of some of his top design students.

Image of a Rotegrity Model

On Friday's arrival we were welcomed with a wine and cheese reception at John and Judith's beautiful barn home where the anticipation and meeting of like minds and former acquaintances in stunning surroundings created a magical prelude. Many Photos throughout the event were taken and placed on the Internet by J Michael Rowland (the moderator of the DomeHome mailing list). A number of others were seen taking photos during the event including Rich Bush, Brian LaBarr, and Al McMahon, and maybe others we can't remember.

The workshop began on Saturday with three segments by Joe Clinton to prepare us all for what was to be done. The first segment was on the history of geodesics which Joe traced back to 700 BC in a presentation that highlighted the principal players and their contributions to the legacy that has continued past Fuller to the present day. The second segment laid out the general terminology as well as some of the ambiguities encountered in literature by a wide variety of inventors working separately.

The event continued with Dick Fischbeck's workshop in building one of his specialties, a Randome, made of rectangular sheets of foam-core with a sliced 5 degree overlap to create concavity. This particular Randome was built on a double spiral configuration and after completing about half, some SNEC members posed as a turtle. Many of us know Dick Fischbeck's work from our Tivoli meeting where he created quite a stir by daring to call a Randome a geodesic structure and an ensuing controversy still not quite resolved. Dick also set up an exhibit of his work and resources.

Joe Clinton's 3rd segment dealt with the terminology and mathematics of geodesics, in particular the projections used in geodesics. Joe put his presentations on CD and distributed them to participants.

Dave Lovler gave a presentation on his theories of concavity and convexity in polyhedra using Polydron models. He tested our abilities to build a stable polyhedron with 6 hexagons and 4 squares. We all failed, not thinking of the spaces between shapes, but he went on to inspire us to try other unconventional approaches. Throughout the day John Belt added many references to resources as well as numerous handouts. That was the end of Saturday's presentation but discussion and exploration and the enjoyment of the many resources of the studio continued well into the night, though there were recesses for jumping in Lake Ontario and dinner. Energy was abundant.

Sunday morning started with caffeine and an introduction to the building methods by Joe Clinton. While the group digested that information we all adjourned to another room where Digger O'Toole had set up a display of many of the products that he produces or is working on at Digger's site www.synergyrings.com can offer you a glimpse into this geometric paradise where flexibility is the key word. We were all amazed.

Tearing ourselves away from Digger's exhibit we entered an extensive exhibit put together by Joe Clinton of patents and their artifacts from his huge collection of patents dealing with geodesic structures. He had arranged the artifacts to illustrate one of his main themes, the coincident discovery and rediscovery that pervades the inventor's milieu, as well as showing the continual refinement of design. Blair Wolfram had also set up a display of dome structures and tensegrities by his company Dome Inc.

Now it was time to build models. Breaking into groups of three, indoor and outdoor contingents began their races. Indoor three rotegrities built in beautifully prepared oak and walnut began to emerge. The rotegrities were approximately five foot diameter spheres, showing a transformation of an icosahedron into it's dual, 3 steps along the way, the degree of rotation of edges being 20, 40 and 60 degrees, the initial and final steps left to the imagination. These gorgeous works of art will be seen in the stairwell of the Design building for many years to come.

The outdoor contingent was set to building 3 geodesic spheres from readily available Simpson Metal Bridging LTB20 struts to illustrate three different classes, frequencies and building methods of geodesics. Joe had meticulously prepared the models, with all the needed parts, and building diagrams. However humans being what we are one of the construction teams strayed from the prescribed route, lost control of the situation, stole elements from a 4th model kit and ended up constructinng the same geodesic as one of the other teams. Nevertheless 3 beautiful silver spheres were erected and hung in a 25 foot open frame dome (this dome was designed by Robert Gray and built in a dome class at Oswego -- spring of '97 as a prototype pillow dome for Chris Zelov and John Todd).

Meanwhile Dick Fischbeck's dome had doubled in size and a closing discussion was held at the various model sites. This exhilarating conference came to a close with a discussion on future events to be planned, but for information on that you'll have to wait for another article.

November 2003 addendum:
The wooden rotegrity spheres from the 2003 SNEC Summer Workshop are now hanging in the staircase well of Wilber Hall. The metal spheres of joist hangers are a bit banged up due to 86mph winds a couple of weeks ago. Joe reviewed the spheres and discussed the where and how the structures failed. We should be able to make one from the parts. Learning from the damage was a good thing and we can make others for inside display.

More photos from the Workshop. Thanks to Dick Fischbeck there a five photos of the foam core project from the Workshop!

Jeannie Moberly wrote the first draft of this account. Several additions and corrections from John Belt. Edited by Chris Fearnley.

List of Attendees:
Brian AshlineTom Mallon
John BeltAl McMahon
Rick BeardsleyJeannie Moberly
Ian BurkeEd Moore
Joe ClintonDigger O'Toole
Blaine D'AmicoMark Palmer
Chris FearnleyMichael Rowland
Dick FischbeckJ Staple
Matt FisherChris Serokos
Brian GatesBarry Silver
Bob GrayDavid Smith
John HesterKatrina VanIngen
Brian LaBarrBlair Wolfram
David Lovler

Exhibit space contributions:

The promotional flyer for this Workshop

Return to the SNEC web site

Please send comments and suggestions to the SNEC webmaster.