I'm currently on a 10 year anniversary tour to talk about the role of design and architecture and its' impact on society. Tomorrow I speak at University of Miami and early this week at Rice University both with the titled talk 'When sustainability is a matter of survival'. With this as my context It was a chance visit a few weeks back in Southern Illinois that has stuck in my head.
In late February I got the opportunity to go to the University of Southern Illinois - Carbondale, a rural university that has one of the newest architecture programs in the country. Unknown to most of the world Carbondale, Il was the home of famed visionary R. Buckminster Fuller and his wife Anne from 1960 to 1972. Brought in by pioneering University President Delyte Morris, they lived in a leafy neighborhood just off campus. With the help of a local contractor they built a one bedroom bucky ball to live and work in. It was during the couple's twelve years in southern Illinois that his work and theories shot onto the national spotlight. He was commissioned to design the US pavilion at the Montreal Expo; he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Almost every exhibition on his work leads us to this small town in the heart of America.
Recognized by the state of Illinois as a building of historical importance and included on the American Institute of Architect's top buildings the dome he called home has not weathered well over the years. With all the accolades and the exhibitions recently, it is a shame that only a few people over the last decade have stepped in to restore and preserve this piece of US history. This country was founded on the principals of innovation and a renegade attitude that pushing the envelope is as important as financial success. It is a primary reason why I moved here and many other entrepreneurs have crossed the oceans in order to call America home.
With the great interest in sustainability right now it is amazing that no-one has thought about turning the home into a regional green jobs training center or a living museum on Bucky's tenure in Illinois. Just look at the funding allocated by the current stimulus package - if I know a building that needs weatherization, this is it. If only we knew of an Illinois based politician whose focused was on creating green jobs and preserving and honoring American ingenuity. While a dedicated group of unpaid volunteers keep the torch alive let's hope that it doesn't get snuffed out by further neglect.