In 1969 Fuller wrote:

"As a consequence of humanity's inability to see the energy transformation motions involved, the structural design of its land buildings and its livingry mechanics, such as plumbing equipment, lag 3000 years behind the evolution in air-space technology standards. Humanity's housing structures and livingry in general are, to a high degree, only superstitiously evolved, economic prowess symbols, inefficiently repetitious of all of yesterday's make-do mistakes." (Earth Inc., p.59)

In respect of machinery in general (but not usually housing), this kind of observation has been made before, for instance by Marx. Discussing the way in which the forms of old machines influence the forms of new ones, he noted that this was shown,

"perhaps more strikingly than in any other way by the fact that, before the invention of the present locomotive, an attempt was made to construct a locomotive with two feet, which it raised from the ground alternately, like a horse. It is only after a considerable development of the science of mechanics, and an accumulation of practical experience, that the form of a machine becomes settled entirely in accordance with mechanical principles, and emancipated from the traditional form of the tool from which it has emerged". (1867, p.505, note 18)

Gordon, however, strikes a note of caution:

"The purposes of a builder of houses may not be at all the same as those of a builder of ships or aeroplanes." (p.132)

See also Skiamorphs. For an explanation of the lags in design, see Banham.



Paul Taylor 2001