Black Mountain College, North Carolina, started an interdisciplinary summer arts school at Lake Eden in 1944 during a war, when things rarely start, and continued to throw artists, musicians, dancers and experimental types together through the 1950s. One of these was Buckminster Fuller who had done his startling dymaxion work in the 1920s and 30s and by the late 1940s mostly taught, did workshops and mentored people. One of these was Jeffrey Burland Lindsay, an engineer-industrial designer in Montreal who headed up the Buckminster Fuller Research Institute, a grand name which turns out to be Lindsay and Ted Pope in a small space on the Plateau. One of the summers Fuller was at Black Mountain, Lindsay too was there: the practical fellow to Fuller's inspirational stuff. They built a 48' geodesic dome in 1948, called by Elaine de Kooning the Supine Dome, as it failed, gracefully. From the pictures it looks like they were building it out of ribbon.
One Black Mountain listing says 'the college played a formative role in the definition of an American aesthetic and identity in the arts during the 1950s and 1960s'. It must have done, it appears to have been stacked with emigrés from the Bauhaus, plus Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Josef Albers; there were poets, there were painters, all was possible. Students included Ray Johnson, Noland, Rauschenberg, Twombly, John Chamberlain — these are the ones I know, there are many others I don't know, but it was clearly seminal, formative, an essential part of American postwar modern art.
The college was located on Lake Eden, planned in 1938 by Gropius and Breuer but development was suspended during WWII, and then after the war Lawrence Kocher took over the design of the main building. It was built by students and faculty from 1940-41, plus, for sustenance and extra cash, there was a farm and a mica mine.
This is a curious episode in American architectural history, one senses that money was tight, creativity and optimism high, materials were often found, the country itself was in the grip of a military-agricultural complex. Kocher's austere, Gropius-influenced, minimal campus building, the stamp of which is in Frey's canvas house of the 1930s, and so similar to a wartime barracks, is also not unlike a North Carolina tobacco-drying shed: wood frame, clad in corrugated galvanised steel. And it has aged like a tobacco-drying shed, leaving behind its bauhaus modernity and revealing its deeper connection to a local vernacular.