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R. Buckminster Fuller sculpture to hang in Engineering Centers Building

When the Engineering Centers Building is completed, a massive stainless-steel-and-wire sculpture designed by visionary engineer-inventor-artist R. Buckminster Fuller will hang at the entrance to its atrium. "Sixty-Strut Tensegrity," is a 500-pound, 9-foot "crystal ball" through which admirers can glimpse its creator's vision of the future, and its donors' memories of the past.
Buckminster sculpture

"We donated it in memory of our husband and father," says Leah "Lee" Temkin of her family's gift. "We wanted something that would be as special as he was."

The former Lee Sigman met Blair "Bud" Temkin on campus. She was in letters and science; he was a chemical engineer, and they married in 1949 while Lee was still in school. Eventually she earned an EdD and taught at Milwaukee Area Technical College, while Bud and his brother started Port Shell Molding, which became a successful foundry in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The couple had a girl and three boys, and shared 48 years before Bud's death in 1998. "Bud was quietly proud of being a registered professional engineer, and we both felt his engineering education enhanced our family's lives, so a memorial gift to the engineering college felt right," says Lee.

Finding "Tensegrity" was serendipitous, she says. "It had been a long day at a Chicago art show," says Lee. "I almost left, but decided to walk one last aisle. There the sculpture hung. Both its beauty and the creative engineering genius of Buckminster Fuller, which it represented, stunned me. It was an easy choice for our family."

Bud shared many of Fuller's creative qualities, she says. "Because Bud had a creative, curious and inventive mind--he designed our octagonal home, made furniture and jewelry, traveled and photographed sites worldwide--and because Bud loved beauty and the art world, it was natural to think in terms of an art piece," says Lee about her family's decision to donate Fuller's work to the college.
Temkin family

The family of ChE alumnus Bud Temkin (back row, center) donated the R. Buckminster Fuller sculpture, "Sixty-Strut Tensegrity," in his memory. (26K JPG)

Recipient of 47 honorary doctorates (including one from UW-Madison), holder of more than 20 U.S. patents and author of nearly 30 books, Fuller is best known for inventing the geodesic dome. He also devised tensional integrity, or tensegrity. Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which each component of an architectural system stabilizes the others by balancing forces of compression and tension.

Commissioned by a Dayton, Ohio, bank, Fuller created "Sixty-Strut Tensegrity" in 1979. From the bank it traveled to the Dayton Art Museum, where it remained until workers renovating the museum disassembled the sculpture and stowed it in the basement.

Carl Solway is the Cincinnati, Ohio, gallery proprietor who arranged the sculpture's commission and acquired it after its basement exile. He says "Tensegrity" is an illustration of Fuller's concern for the environment and his commitment to considering the whole picture. "It is more than a feat of engineering," says Solway. "It is a symbol for the elements of the universe and how the universe is mysteriously held together by the forces within it."

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Date last modified: Friday, 21-Apr-2000 12:00:00 CDT

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