R. Buckminster Fuller, “Single-Cell Jitterbug,” 1976, from an edition of 150 (via: Wright)
The Jitterbug Transformation
Lately, I’ve been obsessing about Buckminster Fuller’s 1976 “Jitterbug” sculptures. He made a number of “limited editions” of his kinetic Jitterbug Atom.
Sometimes you will see it called a “single cell” Jitterbug on an auction site, but I think it’s the same thing. Although, it’s hard to tell if they’re all the same size. Dimensions seem to vary, but who knows whether they’ve measured it in its smallest or largest configuration?
Personally, I never cared much for wire-frame models. Maybe it’s my preference for packaging, but I like it much better when polyhedrons have sides.
Transformable presentation packaging
To me, the later 1976 models are like “proof of concept” for some, as-yet-unrealized luxury presentation packaging. (See also: Geometry, Packaging & Ultraviolence)
When closed, the elegant brushed aluminum, etched copper and stainless steel models are octahedrons with 8 triangular sides. It’s easy to imagine such a shape containing something.
Dennis Dreher’s “constant dihedral hinge”
If Fuller discovered his Jitterbug transformation way back in the late forties, why did he let 28 years pass before making these 1976 models?
The early models of the jitterbug were mechanically very unstable structures, requiring a supporting armature to keep them from collapsing, until 1974 when a very special hinge joint was discovered by Dennis Dreher, who was working with Fuller at the time. This joint is called a constant dihedral hinge in the shape of a Maraldi angle (109.5 degrees) and it is what at last makes the smooth motion of the jitterbug possible.