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Ladislav Sutnar + Buckminster Fuller Equals …

“When Ladislav Sutnar arrived in New York City in 1939, he couldn’t predict that the United States would soon experience a nationwide revolution of the automobile industry. Like in Europe, trains and steamships were the common modes of transportation. However, the New York World’s Fair, where Sutnar was sent to dismantle the Czechoslovakian exhibitions, [ultimately] contributed effectively to the post-WWII revival of the American Dream based on the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,'” writes Jan Van Woensel, in his essay to the excellent reproduction of the Sutnar and Buckminster Fuller collaboration Transport. The Fair’s goal was to promote “The World of Tomorrow,” a designed conglomeration of highways, byways and expressways connecting the nation—“The car is freedom and freedom is future.”

The futurist design thinker Buckminster Fuller was also present at the Fair but had not met the newly arrived Sutnar. During the late 1920s and the early 1930s, Fuller made a reputation based, in part, on his novel, aerodynamically designed prototypes of experimental vehicles first called “4D Transport,” and later renamed “Dymaxion,” a portmanteau of the words dynamic, maximum, tension. “The visionary inventor had the ambition to develop an ‘Omni Medium Transport,’ a vehicle that could go anywhere, anytime. His imagined land-sea-air mobiles revolutionized human mobility by envisaging intelligent transportation decades before such ideas would be considered realizable. Fuller’s approach also radicalized the philosophical concepts of human freedom, choice and interconnectivity,” writes Van Woensel.

Sutnar and Fuller did, however, eventually meet and collaborated on Transport: Next Half Century (1951–2000), initially financed and produced for the Canterbury Printing Co. as a promotional sample. The realist American painter Philip Pearlstein, who then worked in Sutnar’s studio, was assigned to render the sketches for printing. Pearlstein describes the book’s design as very radical at that time. They also included the sketches of Sutnar’s first son, Ctislav, an aviation engineer, and Fuller’s text addressed his “Dymaxion” designs and concepts. “The lesser-known objective of Transport was to revive the popularity of Fuller’s work among American audiences, which it indirectly did,” adds Van Woensel.

Transport shows a slew of aerodynamic, intelligent machines, mobiles and flying objects in Sutnar’s signature design, accurately predicting the evolution of human mobility. Through Transport, Fuller promoted “his philosophically charged worldview as a globally interconnected, ever-accessible desynchronized parallel plain.” To obtain a copy of the book, write to curator.janvanwoensel@gmail.com.

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