The Dymaxion Bathroom was not just a room in a house. It and the Fog Gun had great significance for Fuller because of his views on sanitation. He expatiates on the subject during the 1942 essay "I Figure" (Reader, pp.124-127), where, among other things, he figures that,
"the degree of probability of inherent sanity in the individual is proportional to the degree of maintenance of inherent sanitation in environment."
This concern is not unconnected with the devastating loss of his four year old daughter, Alexandra, in 1922, who died of influenza compounded with spinal meningitis and polio (Hatch, Ch. 6).
In 1923, Le Corbusier wrote:
"Everywhere can be seen machines which serve to produce something and produce it admirably, in a clean sort of way. The machine that we live in is an old coach full of tuberculosis... The family is everywhere being killed and men's minds demoralized in service to anachronisms." (1923, p.257)
Ornstein and Ehrlich make a useful distinction between medical care and sanitation:
"Medical care has not, on the average, notably lengthened the life of those who survive early childhood... Death rates first dropped mainly because of something quite boring: advances in sanitation." (p.122)
A very interesting connection can be made here with a person mentioned by Barber in his discussion of environmental ideology:
"As a physician working at Hull House [Chicago], Dr. Alice Hamilton became so disturbed by the conditions she had to deal with that she became what may have been the first medical urban/environmentalist. It was an environmentalism for working-class immigrants. She investigated public health issues such as outbreaks of typhoid stemming from polluted water, but also worked on demonstrating the industrial sources, the factory-work hazards, of carbon monoxide poisoning and lead poisoning. As a result of her careful scientific studies, in 1919 Hamilton was appointed an assistant professor of industrial medicine at Harvard; she was the first female professor of any subject at Harvard, where she had a long and distinguished career." (p.65)
So Dr. Hamilton was at Harvard, the very place Fuller dropped out of (twice), and worked on the very problems that led to the death of his own daughter. We can only speculate as to whether he was aware of her work, as he so seldom refers to other researchers or designers in his published writings.
The question of sanitation pertains to the field of micro-ecology. It must be handled wisely, as Rosebury suggests:
"Having done so much with hygiene and sanitation, we are beguiling ourselves into believing that there is no limit to the good they can do for us. Once we worshipped Stercus [Sterculius] now he has joined Lucifer, and in his place we have created a god of plumbing. The bathroom becomes clean, elegant, magnificent even the toilet paper is delicately tinted, scented and decorated with little patterns of flowers. Its very lavatory function is hidden under the great American roadside euphemism 'rest room'. Puritanism has all but disappeared but hucksterism has moved in with new taboos, new fetishes, a new orthodoxy with a new motive. What is old is that we are being misled once again. We are being led into turning Freud's anal compulsion into a national neurosis." (p.231)
THE FULLER MAP
© Paul Taylor 2001