Spirit of ‘67

Shoji Sadao dies at 92

Shoji Sadao. (Wikipedia Commons)

Shoji Sadao, the architect that helped transform visionary works from both Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi into reality, has died in Tokyo at the age of 92, according to the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Sadao first met Fuller as his student while he was enrolled in the architecture program at Cornell University in the early 1950s, and the two shortly began collaborating in 1954 by developing an updated version of the Dymaxion Airocean World Map that Fuller had been personally working on since 1943. The two then became close collaborators on geodesic structures, most notably Cloud 9 (1960), a radical proposal for one-mile diameter cloud structures that would be suspended mid-air using the weight distribution of their own internal air pressure, and, after co-founding the architectural firm Fuller & Sadao Inc., the world-famous 20-story-tall U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. In their practice, Fuller would often be the one to propose expansive ideas while Sadao would determine the best methods for implementing them within budget and construction timelines. Fuller wrote a letter to Sadao in 1965 citing him as “The first human being I can enthusiastically contemplate talking into design science partnership in the pursuit of my life objectives.”

A second noteworthy collaboration blossomed when Fuller introduced Sadao to famed furniture designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi in 1956. Together, Sadao and Noguchi developed numerous outdoor works including the spaceship-like Hart Plaza fountain in Detroit, the Billy Rose sculpture garden at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and Moerenuma Park, a groundbreaking 400-acre park in Sapporo, Japan. Much like in his relationship with Fuller, Sadao brought Noguchi’s concepts to fruition without compromising the scale, detailing nor materiality the artist desired. Following Noguchi’s death in 1988, Sadao oversaw the completion of Miami’s Bayfront Park, the last project the artist designed, and held the title of executive director for the Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in Queens, New York from 1988 to 2003.

Though Shoji Sadao may not be a household name, the high quality and ambition of the work he helped produce will no doubt speak for itself.

Related Stories