Monday, June 6, 2016

Event 3: Hammer Museum

I visited the exhibition "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957" in Hammer Museum on May 12. It is the first comprehensive exhibition in the US that documents and examines the history of Black Mountain College, a famous experimental college where art education was deemed central to its liberal arts education. Perhaps even more noteworthy is the fact that Black Mountain College did not stipulate courses as required, and instead gave its student free rein over pursuing their interests. This freedom was largely due to ideals of the progressive education movement, and was also influenced by education reformer John Dewey's principles of education. As a testament to the power of such freedom, many of the college's students and faculty went on to extend their influence to disparate fields such as visual art, musical composition, poetry, and architecture. 

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957
Hammer Museum
Buckminster Fuller in his geodesic dome
To my pleasant surprise, Buckminster Fuller was among the famous architects who taught at Black Mountain College, even serving as its Institute Director in 1949. Fuller is best known for his popularization of the geodesic dome, a 3D geometrical shape constructed by each face of a icosahedron (a type of Platonic solid) into n2 similar triangular tiles. The edges of these small triangles are then projected onto the sphere, so that the resultant structure carries the arrangement of edges. Such a geometric construct have since been widely used in modern architecture design. The Montreal Biosphere, the Climatron greenhouse at Missouri Botanical Gardens, and Walt Disney's Spaceship Earth are a few such examples. A deep mathematical principle behind the geodesic dome is that it solves the 3D isoperimetric problem, which in layman terms means that it encloses the largest volume for a given area. It is therefore conceivable that such designs will find applications elsewhere where space is constrained. For his lifetime achievements, an allotrope of carbon, fullerene, has been named after him, with a particular molecule of that allotrope (C60, called buckminsterfullerene) bearing his full signature. 

The Geodesic Dome by Buckminster Fuller
There were many famous artists, such as Josef and Anni Albers, whose works were on display, with many by Josef displaying deep understanding of perspective paintings and color. It is apparent, from a simple stroll along the exhibitions, that there are deep scientific principles behind these artworks, which once again shows the existence of the "third culture". Here's a photo of myself at the museum.


1. "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957". Hammer Museum. N.d. Web.  4 June 2016. <>

2. "Geodesic dome". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 4 June 2016. <>

3. "Black Mountain College". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 4 June 2016. <>

4. "Buckminster Fuller Inside His Geodesic Dome". Pinterest. N.d. Web. 4 June 2016.  <>

5. "Perspective (graphical)". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, n.d. Web. 4 June 2016. <>

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