The Moon Is Not Going Anywhere

full-moon-moon-bright-sky-47367If there were no failures associated with space forays, what would Hollywood do, considering that so many of its blockbusters are centered around this theme!

We lost contact with Vikram Lander. But we will still be getting information from Chandrayaan, which will be useful to the world’s scientific community. And if not this time, next time around, we are going to make it to the moon and other frontiers.

Dr.Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space program and the person for whom the Lander was named, would laud the spirit of ISRO which has dusted itself after the setback and is all gung-ho to carry on. This was the spirit he tried to imbue his institutions with, as testified by a quote from a paper on him:

“He has come. Tell him.”

“I didn’t do it. You tell him.”

“No, you tell. I feel scared.”

“What is it ?’

“The meter is burnt, sir. We passed too much current.”

“Oh, I see. Well, don’t worry. How else would one learn? Next time you will be more careful.”

That, in a nutshell, was Professor Vikram Sarabhai. Meters were scarce those days. In fact, we did not get a new one for almost two months and the work was held up. But the human qualities of this great man were evident even before he took courage in both hands and shaped the destiny of the scientific institution that was to be PRL, and brought it national and international repute. Visionaries there are many and finally nothing succeeds like success; but in the case of Vikrambhai one could see straightaway that he had to succeed; there was just no other alternative!”

The world’s scientific community is with ISRO. India is with ISRO.

It is a universal human quest—to explore the frontiers and expand our knowledge. This is, in the ultimate analysis, beyond boundaries. It is about the human spirit.

–Meena

Bless Us, Ganesha!

C9965879-3514-46E5-950C-07964DC42871Who can have a problem with someone whose mission is to remove obstacles from your path? No wonder then, that Ganesha is a God whom all love. Wise, witty, with a sense of fun, he is quite the favourite.

No wonder then that his birthday celebrations have caught the imagination of people across the country, and they grow larger and larger every year. I love it too, though I have a question. Is his birthday the day he was made by Parvati and given life by her, or the day that Shiva beheaded him and then brought him back to life again, though with an elephant’s head in place of his original human head. Hmm…maybe someone will explain it to me some day.

Elephants have fascinated humans for ever. The Pali Jataka stories, which go back to the period 600 to 321 BC have references to elephants. According to Buddhist stories, the night before Lord Buddha was born, his mother Maya is supposed to have dreamt of a six-tusked white elephant which came to her from heaven, with a white lotus in his trunk. This is why Buddhists consider the rare white elephant the holiest of all animals, and the embodiment of the Buddha.

The Ramayana and Mahabharata have many references to elephants in war and peace. Flourishing cities for example, are those with elephants. The descriptions of elephants in Ramayana are supposed to be detailed and fairly accurate.

Tamil Sangam literature (1st to 3rd century AD), provides a wealth of information about them. An old poetical dictionary from this body of work has 44 names for elephants, four names for female elephants, and five for baby elephants. Each part of the elephant is named.

Kautilya’s Arthashastra treats the study of elephants as a branch of study and prescribes the duties of mahouts, and approaches to management of elephant populations.

Elephants abound in folktales, proverbs, similes etc. As per a popular Indian folk tale, in the days of yore, elephants could fly. Apparently they were pretty playful. One day, a herd of elephants was gambolling in the branches of a banyan tree. A branch broke and fell (why am I not surprised?). And as to be expected, there was a rishi sitting beneath the tree. His worship was disturbed by the falling tree branch, and as was the wont of rishis, he cursed the elephants that never would they ever be able to fly again. And so it was.

Well, flying elephants would be quite a management issue! But will we at least let our elephants walk the earth? With depleting forests, their habitats are ever-shrinking and ever-fragmenting. The lure of crops as an easy source of food near their habitats is another factor that brings them out of the jungles.  And as a result, human-elephant conflicts keep increasing. Train lines, electric lines and roads across their homes have led to several accidents and deaths in recent times. The threat of poaching for ivory (and sometimes meat), never goes away.

Ganesha, the God of Good Luck! We pray to Thee. Bring peace and goodwill on earth—among humans, and between humans and elephants.

–Meena

The Sun Cooks for Me

Or at least it used to, for many years when I lived in Ahmedabad, where the sun blazed for 10 months of the year.

solar cooker

It was especially useful for boiling potatoes, dals, chana and rajma. Also for making nice kheer—the milk would thicken and thicken and turn a lovely creamy pink. And never ever burn and stick. Also some halwas like carrot halwa, doodhi halwa etc. For sure, food cooked in the solar cooker tasted amazing!

But….

The ‘buts’ were and are:

  • The cooker needs to be rotated once in a while to get the maximum sun. Difficult to do that when one is away at work all day.
  • Unexpected weather changes lead to disasters: Just the day when you have guests, You may come home to find that the chana is not cooked!
  • And if left too long, the food may dry out. So if you are going to be away for nine hours, don’t leave rice in the cooker.
  • Then the cooker has to be cleaned, closed and put away somewhere out of the dew each evening. And it was pretty large and clunky.
  • There can be no shade around the cooker, which means you need a large clear space, and is a bit of a problem when trees grew tall and branch out.
  • Service may be a problem. At one stage the metallic rod which kept up the mirror broke, and I could not find anyone to fix it. I tried propping it up with this and that, but not always with success.
  • Dogs may come and sniff at it.

Even with my enthusiasm, my use tapered off.

Now I live in Bangalore. It has many more no-sun days. But when I see how much cooking gas we use, I am tempted to again buy a solar cooker. I surfed and surfed. Many fewer suppliers than 25 years ago. And sadly, the design hasn’t changed one bit. It is still the same metal dabba, with four black-lidded dabbas to put the food in.

I think I still will buy one. Even if I can use only it for 100 days out of 365. Even if it means a bit of uncertainty and inconvenience. But that does make me wonder—in our country where there is so much sun, why are our bright-brains not working to develop innovative cookers at reasonable prices? Maybe something that rotates with the sun. Maybe something with a back-up for low-light days. Maybe something which would ‘turn off’ after a set amount of time (or light). Maybe something with a ‘cook’ mode and a ‘keep warm’ mode. Maybe sleeker designs. Maybe service centres.

I don’t know…But I think with good design and a little more convenience, many more people would use these.

And that, I think is the tragedy of Indian science and technology. We don’t seem to set out to solve our own problems with our own resources. Who should be more interested in developing solar cookers than a country which has abundant sunlight, and for whom fossil fuel use is a concern? And which boasts some of the brightest tech brains!

Well no one. So let me see how to go about buying a twin of the solar cooker I bought a quarter century ago.

–Meena

World Honey Bee Day Greetings!

beeA day for honey bees? Does that seem to be taking things too far? Not really, when we pause to think how important they are. Bees pollinate around one-third of food crops and 90 per cent of wild plants (wild plants = food for livestock + all animals in the world, directly or indirectly!). Food for all life on earth will wind down to zero without plants propagating. And that is not possible without bees.

The economic value of bees’ worldwide pollination work is estimated at Euro 265 billion. But what intrigues me is, even if we could pay the price, how on earth would pollination happen? Surely we are not going to be able to do it manually or mechanically!

Bees–and by extension, we–are in trouble. It is estimated that one-third of UK’s bee population has disappeared in the last decade. 24 per cent of Europe’s bumblebees are threatened with extinction. In India, farmers in Odisha reported in a recent study that population of some bees had declined by about 80 per cent.

But why are bees declining? Habitat loss, climate change (research shows that pollinating insects are particularly sensitive to this), intensive farming methods and colony collapse disorder (CCD) are some of the major reasons. Some pesticides are the most direct risk to bee populations.

So what can we do? ‘Go green’ is the obvious answer. No pesticides, ecological farming, planting local flowering trees and plants are the mantras.

Interestingly Karnataka, where I live, is the first State to moot a State Insect. As per news reports, this will be the honey bee! The exact species it seems, is yet to be decided. But a good step forward.

And another interesting bit of information that I came across: India has something called a National Bee Board under the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India. ‘The main objective of the National Bee Board (NBB) is overall development of Beekeeping by promoting Scientific Beekeeping in India to increase the productivity of crops through pollination and increase the Honey production for increasing the income of the Beekeepers/ Farmers.’

World Honey Bee Day (which began as National Honey Bee Day in the US), is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of August.

The UN however celebrates May 20 as World Bee Day. It marks the birthday of Anton Jansa, 18th century pioneer of modern bee-keeping techniques.

I don’t have a problem with celebrating both. The more the buzzier!

–Meena

Vikram Sarabhai Centenary

header_leftA remarkable man was born a hundred years ago in our country. He dared to dream impossible things and proceeded to make them possible. I would have thought the country would have been abuzz this year, with multitudes of events to remind the younger generation of his achievements in myriad fields from space science, to management, to atomic energy, to textile research, to education. That the institutions he had set up would not just celebrate the moment but also introspect and re-dedicate themselves to his principles.

ISRO is the only one which seems to be doing it at any scale. Chandrayaan went up, and all those associated with ISRO did remember and thank him. The mission’s lander is appropriately called Vikram. They are also launching a year-long calendar of programs for schools; awards for journalists in space science, technology and research; releasing a commemorative coin, a coffee table book, a space education van, etc.

But what is really disappointing for me is that his contribution to management and institution building is not being celebrated. Everyone acknowledges that his greatest achievements were probably in institution building. ISRO, IIM, PRL are just some of the prominent institutions which stand testimony to this in the public eye, but ‘Sarabhai was a prolific institution builder. He set up an institution every year beginning from 1947 till his death in 1971. He left his imprint in fields as diverse as space technology and performing arts.’

That makes it about 2 dozen institutions!!

There are a few old papers on his approach to institution-building. But I would have thought it should be seriously taught in management schools; there should be training programs for all levels of managers based on his thinking; that academics would delve into it and write papers by the dozens; that seminars and workshops would be held. In this year at least! But I haven’t heard of any such.

Indian organizations wither and die (if not physically, in spirit and achievements), within decades of their birth. Is it not important for managers in both the public and private sectors to understand how institutions that Dr.Sarabhai built have been able to retain the spirit and reaching the heights—literally the moon—close to five decades after his passing away? Dr.Sarabhai straddled the worlds of industry, government, academia and research, and used the same approach to all. So his approach to institution building should have messages for every manager.

Well, I owe a lot to his approach to institution building. So I thought to put together something as my tiny tribute. (The following are quotes majorly from two sources, one whose authorship it has not been possible to find. Since this is not an academic paper, I have taken liberty to quote from it.).

On Institutional Culture:

‘Trust was an important element of both personal and organizational relationship’.

‘The operating culture of (his) institutions were such that administration played a supportive role and helped the institutional growth through implementation of research programmes. This is unlike many organizations, especially educational, research, governmental, and public sector organizations, where the tail wags the dog.

He believed that an institution based on caring for people gave assurance to individuals to innovate and to respond to situations creatively.

Sarabhai was opposed to rigid controls and often wrote and spoke against controls which, he believed, “damaged innovative behaviour and consequently the growth of new institutions.”

On Building People to Build Institutions:

‘Sarabhai’s institution building philosophy was centered around development of individuals. For him people were more important than buildings. He created and nurtured various institutions through developing and nurturing young individuals. He gave trust, freedom of work and autonomy and showed care and concern to them in return he received creativity and commitment, which ultimately strengthened the institutional goals’.

On Institutional Leadership:

‘Vikram Sarabhai was very particular in selecting the head of an institution. The chief executive can make or mar the institutional fabric.’

In selecting a head of institution, it was very important to Dr. Sarabhai to see ‘how suitable he is as a human being’.

‘According to Sarabhai, a basic requirement of an institutional leader is the ability to provide the appropriate operating culture which would be created by the attitudes and assumptions of its people rather than by the formal organizational structure’.

On Staffing A New Institution:

‘In selecting researchers for ATIRA, Sarabhai insisted on recruiting fresh candidates with knowledge of scientific methodology and preferred those without previous experience. This was a deliberate move, for he believed that taking away experienced and trained people from universities and research institutions would create a vacuum which would weaken them.’

Respect for Individuals:

He showed tremendous respect to each individual he, met. Parikh (1972, p44) described this “Many times I have seen Dr, Sarabhai patiently listening to people who would go on with long incoherent monologues which seemed to convey nothing. Yet, In the end, Dr. Sarabhai would summarise the monologue, giving it a very constructive interpretation and meaning. I am told that when asked why he suffered fools so lightly, Dr. Sarabhai had replied that in a vast country like India where people come from diverse backgrounds not everyone has had a privileged upbringing. One should, therefore, allow for this in listening to people and try to see behind the words what they are trying to say.”

Summing up the Spirit:

And finally, in his own words: ‘There is no leader and there is no led. A leader, if one chooses to identify one, has to be a cultivator rather than a manufacturer. He has to provide the soil and the overall climate and the environment in which the seed can grow. One wants permissive individuals who do not have a compelling need to reassure themselves that they are leaders through issuing instructions to others; rather they set an example through their own creativity, Love of nature and dedication to what one may call the ‘scientific method.’ These are the leaders we need in the field of education and research’.

References:

Institution building: Ganesh S.R., Joshi P. (1985) Lessons from Dr. Vikram Sarabhai’s leadership. Vikalpa. Vol. 10, No 4.

https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/46629/9/09_chapter%204.pdf

–Meena

 

ARE STUDENTS LEARNING?

The New Education Policy has gone through long debate and discussion. It is time to put it into action.  But the crucial issue is how will all the lofty ideas be translated into better learning?

It is essential to worry about this. Because what students seem to be learning in government schools today, or rather what they are not learning, is a matter of grave concern. This may seem to be a sweeping statement to make, but many of those concerned with school education would agree. A large number of studies, including the well-respected PROBE reports endorse this.

But sometimes, large numbers, averaged statistics, and thick, academic reports don’t really communicate effectively. So let us look at one small example. A test was administered to a group of 457 youth, of whom 7 were below SSC, 104 were SSC Pass, and the remaining were Inter Pass, Diploma, Graduates etc. Meaning, 346 of the candidates were at least Inter or Std 12 pass. The test consisted of a few basic math and science questions administered in the mother tongue, and a middle-school level comprehension passage also administered in the mother tongue. The test did not include anything beyond Std 8 competencies, and in fact, many of the questions should theoretically have been answered correctly by Std 4 students.

The questions and results are summarized below:

Observations for Math and Science Competencies

 

Question Level Question % of Students who have answered correctly
Math
1 What is the addition of the following numbers:    6578 + 9342 91.40
1 Multiply the following:  782 x 421 68.40
2 Solve 4 × 5 ÷ 2 + 7 =? 71.90
2 If you have got 763/800, what is your percentage? 63.00
2 What is the average of Average of 98 and 62? 63.20
2 You have Rs. 219. You give 2/3 to your brother. How much money are you left with? 52.90
3 Identify the ‘right angle’ triangle 84.00
3 What is the next number in the sequence 1 4 9 16? 51.60
3 What is the next number in this sequence 1 1 2 3 5? 55.10
Science
2 H2O is the chemical name of which common element? 68.90
2 What is the name of the satellite that revolves around Earth? 49.20
2 Approximately, how long does the Earth take to complete one orbit around the Sun? 64.70
3 If you have poor eye sight, you are likely to be suffering from the deficiency of which vitamin? 44.80
3 Name the process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy? 75.40
Question Level
1 Class III-IV level questions
2 Class V-VI level questions
3 Class VII-VIII level questions

 

Observations for Reading Comprehension

  • Overall 41% of the total youth were able to answer all the questions correctly in Reading Comprehension and get a score of 100%
  • 9% students were not able to answer any question correctly and thus scored ‘0’ in Reading Comprehension

 

Admittedly this was not very scientific test, maybe not on a representative sample. There could many questions about the methodology and process. But to my mind, that still does not excuse the results!

What is wrong with our schools? We are revising curricula and re-writing textbooks; we are training teachers ad infinitum; we are giving grants for everything from school toilets to teaching-learning material. But at the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And this pudding doesn’t taste at all right!

Increasing the financial allocation for Education is the first big step. But this is the time to take a serious and hard look at how this money should be spent. Doing more of the same is not going to get us anywhere, because what we are doing is obviously not good enough. There needs to be a National Mission to ensure that our children learn—our future depends on this.

–Meena

Gentle Birdman Leaves Us

Many mornings, sitting in our little garden with our cups of tea, as we watch the birds already busy going about their day’s business, we may spot one that we had not seen before. And before it disappears we say, “Bring Lalsinhbhai’s book and let’s find out what this is.” Lalsinhbhai’s handy bird book is always close at hand. With the help of the beautiful life-like illustrations we open to the description, and always learn so much more than the name of the bird. Written in simple conversational Gujarati, Lalsinhbhai’s bird books are over and above the traditional description of birds. They capture nuances of birds that make them truly our Lifelong Companions, as one of his books is titled.

Lalsinhbhai Raol, passionate nature lover, the birdman of Gujarat, and an inspiration to countless nature lovers, passed away recently. For the Matriarchs, who both stepped into the charmed campus of CEE with relatively little prior exposure to the natural world, he was one of the wonderful guides that gently led us to explore and discover the world of birds.

Lalsinhbhai was then working with CEE on a book series called Introduction to Nature. For many generations, Salim Ali’s book had been the Bible for all birdwatchers. Lalsinhbhai’s series, in Gujarati, not only opened up the fascinating world of birds to non-English speaking audiences, but also opened windows to the birds of Gujarat—starting with the most commonly found birds, to birds of wetlands, of grasslands, and of the forest and its environs. Lalsinhbhai not only translated his long years of bird observation into succinct, interesting descriptions, but also coined appropriate Gujarati names for several of these.

His was a quiet, unobtrusive presence on CEE campus, but whenever you met him, he would always have a gentle word of concern and encouragement, and an exciting bird fact to share.IMG_20190801_110849.jpg

I had the privilege of sharing his great knowledge and passion when he kindly agreed to be the author of NatureScope Birds, one of a series of Teachers’ Manuals that I was editor of. This involved not only putting together a compendium of information about Indian birds in a teacher and student-friendly style, and also linking this with relevant and exciting activities that could be easily done. For me this was a greatly enriching and inspiring collaboration. Even today, I often dip into the book for facts, ideas, and activities with the confidence that every word is accurate and vetted by an expert ornithologist.

Meena has her own special memories of learning from Lalsinhbhai. I had the privilege to work with Lalsinhbhai on developing a proposal for a project of Bird Study for the Visually Challenged almost 30 years ago. It was a unique project, in that its purpose was to make ‘bird watching’ possible without the ‘watching’. Recorded bird sounds were of course an important part; but we also proposed providing tactile experiences such as touch-and-feel albums of feathers; collection of birds’ nests; true-size models of birds, birds’ feet, beaks, eggs; and trips to bird areas to experience the environment, sounds, etc. As always, Lalsinhbhai could empathise with the needs, and gave wonderful insights and ideas. The Ministry of Human Resources accepted the proposal and the team carried out a very successful project in Ahmedabad.

We feel fortunate for having known, and learnt from this gentle soul. May his spirit always soar high with the birds that he so loved.

–Mamata and Meena

 

Parenting an Instinct? Dangerous Assumption

Sanjeev 15 years old. Son of good friends. Committed suicide a few days before his Std 10 Board exams.

What would lead to a situation where a 15-year old is so defeated by life, or is in such despair that he takes his life?

Madhuri and Amar are wonderful people. They loved their two children and worked hard to give them the best of everything. Madhuri would get up at five every morning to cook breakfast and lunch, before coming to work. Amar would take them to the movies every alternate Sunday. They both worked hard to earn enough to give them the advantages they never got.

But were they good parents? I am not so sure.

Madhuri and Amar had married young—defying their parents to make a runaway match. Sanjeev came along before they knew what was happening. They coped with jobs, insufficient money, newly reconciled relatives, sleepless nights, and a fairly new marriage, as best they could. They couldn’t really draw upon any experienced parents, even if they wanted to.

But it was fairly obvious to many of us standing on the side and looking on, that though they were loving parents, they were not good parents.

Why do we assume that parenting comes naturally? That it is an instinct? That it requires no preparation, no conscious effort?

We have recognized the importance of telling young couples that the health of the mother and child are endangered if the mother is too young and her body too immature. But have we ever told them that the psychological and emotional well-being of the child are in danger if the parents are too immature to bring them up? Have we told the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents this?

We take the trouble to inform new parents what they must feed the child, what the symptoms of various illnesses are, when the infants must have their various shots, etc. But does anyone tell them how they must deal with their children? Give them a glimpse of child psychology and child behaviour?

Yes, my great-aunt had eight children, starting with her first one when she was 15. No. No one gave her lectures on child psychology. And all the children grew up quite well, thank you very much! Yes, true.

But surely the world today is a much more complex place than it was 75 years ago. Or 50 years ago. Or even 15 years ago. Were children then exposed to internet, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and all kinds of things I am not even aware of? Did they live in a world where a percentage point in Std 12 marks made the difference between making it into medicine or not? Did they live in a world where violence and sex were daily fare? Where corruption and cynicism were the order? Where possession or non-possession of branded shoes and jeans, or Facebook pics of exotic holidays, decided whether you belonged or didn’t? Where the family was two young adults who left in the morning and came back late in the evening?

The answer is obvious. We talk of education to cope with change. Then why do we not see that education for parenting is a–maybe the–most crucial part of this education? We know that data analysts need training; carpenters need training; engineers need training…. But we seem to think that we can take on the most important job in life—that of taking responsibility for another human life—without any training or education or preparation or even thought.

The increasing number of cases like Sanjeev’s that one sees reference to in the media clearly indicate that we need such education. But who is provide it? Where? When? How? Indian society must answer these questions. It is no longer enough to say that our traditional structures and family values are so strong that these things will get taken care of. It is obvious that the family and social structures are not being able to cope.

Someone has to act! This kind of education or sensitization hast to reach each and every young person. Reach them at a time when it is needed. Reach them in a way that it makes a difference. Is the Public Health Centre the venue? The anganwadi? The school? The college? TV the medium? Radio? All of these?

Whatever the answer, let us at least ask ourselves the questions. Believe me, a Sanjeev you know may break your heart.

–Meena

 

Effortlessly Antique

40CAEEBD-E296-4C56-B3BA-4B460523A19E

Raghu has a weakness for antiques and the house is a bit overboard on old bric-a-brac, carpets, furniture, etc., which he has been collecting for 30 years now.  He used to scour antique shops, flea markets, craft shops, furniture shops and what not, spending enormous amounts of time. And much more money than we could afford.

But a few days ago, I looked around and wondered why he even made the effort! Just by sheer living and reaching the age of 60ish, even our most mundane belongings are antique!

My wedding saris are over 35 years old.

My own jewellery is 40 years old. But my mother and grandmother both gave me pieces of their jewellery over time. So some of it is close to 65 years old. And a few pieces close to 85 years old.

Raghu has his first watch, which was a hand-me-down from his father–easily 70 years old. Also, his father’s fountain pen, probably of the same vintage.

My silver kodam (water pot), was given to my grandmother from her mother’s time and is probably a century old, give or take.

The idols in the puja cabinet may again be a 100 years old, since some of them belonged to great-grandparents.

We did go out of our way to buy some old pieces of furniture, but some of the most mundane pieces like the kitchen cabinet, by growing old with us, are close to four decades old.

My ever-silver (stainless steel for the non-South Indians) vessels come down from my mother-in-law’s treasured hoard, and may well be over 60 years old.

I have dessert bowls that my parents bought when they were in the UK in 1962.

I have a doll that was bought during the same visit.

Our photographs rest in albums dating back to the ‘50s.

So whether or not you know it, whether you want to be or not, you are an antique collector. And your house is a museum. Because life happens…

–Meena

Calico Dome: My Introduction to the Genius of Buckminster Fuller

Born July 12, 1895. A tribute on his birth anniversary.

When I moved to Ahmedabad in 1984, one of the ‘must see’ places was the Calico Dome. So dutifully, I went there as part of the Old City sightseeing and shopping experience.

It took me quite a while to figure out what the big deal about the dome was.

….That the dome was more than a showroom for the Calico Mills. That it was more than a venue for a fashion show that Parveen Babi had once taken part in as a student. That it was a historic structure, the first space frame structure in India (today so common in airports, for instance). That it was a design inspired by Buckminster Fuller‘s geodesic domes, and designed by Gautam and Gira Sarabhai and inaugurated in 1962.

Well, so what? Nothing, except the geodesic dome is ‘recognized as the strongest, lightest, and most efficient means of enclosing space yet devised by man’.

A geodesic dome is composed of a complex network of triangles. These structures are extremely strong. They can withstand high winds, earthquakes and heavy snow, making them ideal structures for any type of environment. They are also efficient and sustainable. Due to their spherical nature, dome homes provide a large amount of living space, while taking up very little surface area. And due to their lower area-to-volume ratio, they require less energy for heating and cooling.

geodesic.jpg

The geodesic dome embodies all that Buckminster Fuller stood for— ‘Less is More’, and a constant effort towards sustainability through design. Dedicating his life ‘to making the world work for all of humanity’, his designs have continued to influence generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet. He was the first person to use the term ‘Spaceship Earth’.

He was a practical philosopher who contributed to many facets of life and has been called a ‘comprehensive, anticipatory design scientist.’. Just a few examples of how his work has contributed beyond architecture and design: Molecular biologists have now established that his mathematical formula for the design of the geodesic dome applies perfectly to the structure of the protein shell that surrounds every known virus. Several leading nuclear physicists are convinced that the same formula explains the fundamental structure of the atomic nucleus, and is thus the basis of all matter.

Other paradigm shifting designs include the Dymaxion houses, cars and map.

He visited India several time, giving the Nehru Memorial lecture in 1969. During one of his visits to India, he helped build a geodesic structure on the campus of Bengal Engineering College (now, Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur, West Bengal)

Happy that geodesic domes were something I encountered, including on drives to the airport at Ahmedabad for 20 years, at one of the garden-chowks!

—Meena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mills and shops closed in the 1990s and the dome went into disrepair. In the 2001 earthquake, the centre of the dome collapsed and heavy rains damaged the interior of the underground shop. Later the dome collapsed completely.[3] [4]

On liquidation of Calico Mills, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) bought it as a heritage property in 2006.

 

 

Putting their novelty aside, dome homes have the potential to solve many of our most pressing environmental and societal challenges. R. Buckminster Fuller’s ultimate goal in designing geodesic dome structures was to solve the housing challenges of an ever-increasing population. He set out to design human shelters that were strong, sustainable and affordable.

The geodesic design is a perfect marriage of the sturdy arch and the rigid triangle, which enables dome homes to be extremely strong. They can withstand high winds, earthquakes and heavy snow, making them ideal structures for any type of environment, especially in an increasingly volatile climate.

Along with their strength, dome homes are incredibly efficient and sustainable. Due to their spherical nature, dome homes provide a large amount of living space, while taking up very little surface area. And due to their lower area-to-volume ratio, they require less energy for heating and cooling.

Additionally, dome homes require far less building materials than traditional homes do, and can be made out of a variety of eco-friendly building materials. They’re also typically less expensive to make than traditional homes, and the fact that they are much smaller than traditional single-family homes also helps keep the costs down. These factors make them ideal for people looking to build an environmentally friendly home on a budget.

While the residential application of the geodesic dome is most heralded in American culture, the original Fuller domes—as well as many since—were actually constructed for commercial use.

In fact, the first dome that was constructed after Fuller filed his patent for the structure was part of the Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., in 1953. The Ford Rotunda was originally an open-air pavilion, which the company then retrofitted with a roof to create an indoor space. However, the building could not sustain a traditional roof, which would weigh more than 160 tons. Ford turned to Fuller to design a geodesic dome that weighed just 8 tons. Although the Rotunda was destroyed in a fire in 1962, it was proof of concept for many commercial buildings to come.

After the success of the dome used for the Rotunda, other clients came calling, including the U.S. military. The government looked to the Fuller domes for two reasons. First was for how impervious they were to wind and weather, as the military needed shelter for their radar equipment that could withstand the harsh conditions at the Arctic Circle. The dome shape proved to be ideal to withstand high winds with minimal maintenance.

And second, the U.S. government explored using geodesic domes for their light weight and ease of construction. The domes were used to create “speedy but strong” housing for soldiers overseas in the 1950s, according to the Buckminster Fuller Institute. In fact, the Marines went as far as creating a 30-foot dome that could be delivered by helicopter and assembled in just over two hours—and that could withstand a day-long barrage of 120-mile-per-hour wind gusts.

MODERN DOMES AND POTENTIAL IMPACT

Since the early days of experimentation with geodesic structures, many have been built, including Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth (although it’s technically a geodesic sphere, not a dome), the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., the original hangar used to house the Spruce Goose, and the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station (from 1975–2003). As architecturally impressive as they are utilitarian, these domes allow their proprietors to do more with less.

This do-more-with-less mentality has also led optimistic individuals to use the geodesic dome shape to solve urban problems such as creating transitional housing in Silicon Valley. A recent proposal by the entrepreneur Greg Gopman aims to provide a small village of dome homes available to rent for just $250 per month.

After all, what the geodesic dome—and its potential—shows us is the impact that architects and builders can have when they truly think outside the box.

https://blueprint.cbre.com/the-impact-and-importance-of-the-geodesic-dome/

 

  1. Buckminster Fuller was a renowned 20th century inventor and visionary born in Milton, Massachusetts on July 12, 1895. Dedicating his life to making the world work for all of humanity, Fuller operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts.” Fuller did not limit himself to one field but worked as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty. Throughout the course of his life Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books, received 47 honorary degrees. And while his most well know artifact, the geodesic dome, has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide, Fuller’s true impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet.

 

The Dymaxion Map, 1943

Not limiting himself to any one discipline, Fuller took on cartography with this invention – credited as the first two-dimensional map of the entire Earth’s surface that shows it without distortions.

To create the piece, Fuller projected the world map onto the surface of a three-dimensional icosahedron, which was then unfolded and laid flat.

https://www.dezeen.com/2018/08/27/eight-forward-thinking-ideas-buckminster-fuller-exhibition-los-angeles/

he Dymaxion map or Fuller map is a projection of a world map onto the surface of an icosahedron, which can be unfolded and flattened to two dimensions. The flat map is heavily interrupted in order to preserve shapes and sizes.

The projection was invented by Buckminster Fuller. The March 1, 1943 edition of Life magazine included a photographic essay titled “Life Presents R. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion World”. The article included several examples of its use together with a pull-out section that could be assembled as a “three-dimensional approximation of a globe or laid out as a flat map, with which the world may be fitted together and rearranged to illuminate special aspects of its geography.”[1] Fuller applied for a patent in the United States in February 1944, the patent application showing a projection onto a cuboctahedron. The patent was issued in January 1946.[2]

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geodesic dome, which has been recognized as the strongest, lightest, and most efficient means of enclosing space yet devised by man.

 

Molecular biologists have now established that his mathematical formula for the design of the geodesic dome applies perfectly to the structure of the protein shell that surrounds every known virus. Several leading nuclear physicists are convinced that the same Fuller formula explains the fundamental structure of the atomic nucleus, and is thus the basis of all matter.

 

Gira and Gautam Sarabhai and his team designed the Calico Dome, inspired by Buckminster Fuller‘s geodesic domes. The dome housed the showroom and shop for Calico Mills, which opened in 1962. The first fashion show in Ahmedabad was organised in the Dome.[2] Indian actress Parveen Babi took part in shows in the 1970s when she was a student.[2]

Inaugurated in 1962, the 12-meter wide structure

It was the first space frame structure in India

The mills and shops closed in the 1990s and the dome went into disrepair. In the 2001 earthquake, the centre of the dome collapsed and heavy rains damaged the interior of the underground shop. Later the dome collapsed completely.[3] [4]

On liquidation of Calico Mills, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) bought it as a heritage property in 2006.