Since prefab is often implicitly about mobility, spatial efficiency and design innovation, Prefab Friday seemed an apt day to feature the Quickup Camper. The lightweight, carbonfiber and foam shell pops open into a mobile dwelling in thirty seconds, and closes down to a compact enough size to fit into a garage. Best of all, unlike so many other campers, it doesn’t cut your miles-per-gallon down to nothing. But to truly appreciate the beauty of the Quickup, you have to understand the sheer brilliance of the man behind the machine…

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Jay Baldwin is a pioneer, a visionary and a central figure in such legendary early experiments as geodesic dome design, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation. He was also the Soft Tech, Tools and Nomadics editor (hence the interest in free-roaming habitation) for The Whole Earth Catalog. A student and colleague of Bucky Fuller, he is now the “resident expert” at the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

But credentials aside, Jay Baldwin is simply an inspiring presence. I had the pleasure of seeing him speak last week on the Sustainability panel at the Dwell on Design, where he offered the capstone to a sequence of presentations that encouraged radical, whole-systems thinking. Baldwin ended with a “lesson on synergy,” which boiled down to a geometric ode to the triangle.

You’ll notice that a triangle is the central form in the fully-opened Quickup; that’s because it’s the most stable, efficient shape with which to build a shelter. Dwell attendees got to see the camper up close, with on-the-spot answers from the designer himself. It didn’t have the luxe aura of the two Airstreams and Breckenridge Trailer that stood beside it, but it had an integrity that clearly emerges from decades spent studying the world’s innate design science. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be a nomad in a truck with a Bucky-like structure stuck to the top?

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