It’s the 50th anniversary of the Fuller Dome completion in 1971, and with that, Benjamin Lowder became the new director for the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability.
Lowder said his role is to deal with the administrative duties of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability and uphold the organization’s mission statement to highlight humanity’s connection to the earth.
Lowder’s exposure to the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability came from his project of building a sustainable house. He built his house out of reclaimed materials and put a lot of effort into making sure his home can work with nature.
“The home being a sustainable design, it’s not only built out of the reclaimed materials, but also it’s aligned with seasonal sun angles so that on the summer solstice, no direct sunlight comes in the house, so it stays cool in the shade, and on the winter solstice, direct sun comes into the house and heats up naturally on its own,” Lowder said.
During this time, Lowder was also designing advertisements for businesses, but after he built his house, the experience was so profound that he decided to quit making advertisements. As an artist, Lowder would make geometric shapes out of reclaimed wood and vintage metals from old advertisement signs.
“Reusing the materials, the reclaimed wood and the old vintage advertising, is a way to kinda recognize the heritage of those materials and at the same time not be stuck in the past on a nostalgic feeling, but evolve and progress those materials. Esspecially with the advertising that’s usually from the 20th century. That’s [a] metal vintage advertising sign which would’ve promoted messages of consumerism, and that is really no longer sustainable, so part of the art practice would be deconstructing those messages, those consumerism messages and remixing them and transforming them into these geometric objects,” said Lowder.
Lowder said he admired the ideas architect Buckminster Fuller developed and pays homage to him in his work.
“The consumerism message of the advertising is transformed into a message of sustainability and cooperation and abundance by referencing the geodesic geometry that Buckminster Fuller used and then also sacred geometric patterns that are found in nature and natural growth systems,” Lowder said.
As a student at SIU Carbondale, Lowder started to work with the Fuller Dome.
“I began doing some commercial artwork for them on a volunteer basis to help them raise money. At the same time, I had finished with this house, so it felt like ‘Okay, I’m going to use my marketing skills and art talent to promote the legacy of Mr. Buckmisnter Fuller’ since [his] values were in alignment with the shift I wanted to make in my life personally,” Lowder said.
Lowder was first brought to the SIUE campus in 2013.
“I did an art exhibition there. I was brought to campus by a professor in the sociology department named Linda Markowitz, who wanted me to come and speak to her sociology class about sustainable home design,” Lowder said.
Now, as the director of Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, he plans for the next 50 years of the Dome’s future.
“We need to invest a decent amount of money in this building in order for it to be used for another 50 years. A lot of what we’re going to be focused on in 2021 as we celebrate the 50th anniversary is doing some fundraising to be able to replace the roof and upgrade the heating system, and all of that work, we’re going to be doing it in a green fashion. We’re going to put a green roof in it, we’re looking to add some photovoltaic panels, a wind turbine, and the long-term goal for all of that work on the building will be leading toward creating a net-zero carbon footprint for the center,” Lowder said.
Lowder said he also wants to have more programs at the Dome and to increase awareness of Fuller’s legacy at SIUE. The impact of the Dome on campus is still felt after 50 years, according to Erin Vigneau-Dimick, the SIUE University Museum Executive Creator.
“I think that the connection to the Dome and the 90th meridian for people walking by it and looking at it or being able to use it as a gathering space is really important. I also think that the ability of it being used by a number of different types of student faith bodies is really terrific. I really admire their commitment to serving everybody,” Vigneau-Dimick said.
Lowder sits on the board for the Fuller Dome Board along with Jon Davey, the president of the board. Davey talked about the Spaceship Earth concept — created by Fuller, it’s a way of thinking that planet Earth is a spaceship and that we should take care of it like a crew on “Star Trek”.
“We commemorate it by being on Spaceship Earth. By recognizing that this is not just the third rock from the sun, that we are really traveling through space and the things that we do to our spaceship, Earth, have profound consequences and that we need to recognize it as a spaceship and not just a simple spinning planet, stuck out there in front of the sun.” Davey said.
To learn more about the Edwardsville Dome and Fuller, visit the web page for the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability.