Noel B. Murphy
Filmmaker, comedian, educator, and self-described “evangelist for green technology and critical thinking,” Noel B. Murphy, grew up in the Detroit area but spent the past four decades living in other states and traveling the world. He recently moved from California to Grosse Pointe, where he is renovating a 1920s home and reconnecting with his childhood memories and some of the people in those memories.
According to Murphy, his Detroit roots run deep as the great-grandson of industrialist M.J. Murphy, who founded the Murphy Chair Company in Detroit about 150 years ago.
“I’m here to make a difference. I still believe in Michigan and the Detroit area and want to be part of breathing inspiration and possibility into it.” Murphy said, “I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never seen architecture or the opportunity to own a home like we have here. But we need to fully embrace housing and diversity – and we need to care for and house people. There is enough for everyone.”
Murphy recently held the Detroit premiere of his documentary film, “BUCKY & The Design Science Revolution,” the second film in a trilogy about R. Buckminster Fuller, whose nickname was Bucky. This film focuses on Fuller's designs and artifacts as well as his inventive and abundance mindset. Jeff Bridges and Marianne Williamson are featured in the film.
Fuller, a renowned 20th century architect, inventor, philosopher and systems theorist popularized visionary concepts such as Synergetics, Dymaxion, and the geodesic dome. Murphy refers to him as “the grandfather of green and the future” and “the greatest renegade thinker of modern times.”
Murphy’s documentary has traveled worldwide on the film festival circuit. For this documentary, Murphy filmed Fuller’s 1940s Dymaxion House – an aluminum “house of the future” prototype which is on exhibit as part of the collection at The Henry Ford in Dearborn. Murphy said the third film will be made in the Detroit area.
“Bucky was a transformative thinker. He saw things differently than the rest of us. He had big ideas and big actions,” Murphy explained. “I hope my films awaken your curiosity about why you are here on the planet and inspires you to contribute your genius to society, like Bucky did.”
Murphy was first exposed to Fuller’s innovative ideas at Harvard University by storyteller and mentor, Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill, who also went by the name Brother Blue. Murphy became drawn to Fuller's genius when he discovered the comfort, answers, and inspiration in Fuller’s transformative teachings that he didn’t receive from his complicated childhood family life.
As part of his reconnection with the area, Murphy has begun reuniting with some of the people that were a meaningful part of his early life – including the family of late WJR Radio legend, J.P. McCarthy. In his teens, Murphy worked as an assistant to McCarthy which later open doors for him professionally.
“The McCarthy family unofficially adopted me. Staying with them in Bloomfield Hills was respite from my life – it was my ‘happy place’ growing up. They offered me love and safety and it changed my life. I’m so grateful and want to pass it on.”
Murphy offers up this challenge: “There are two questions you need to ask yourself: ‘Are you enough?’ ‘Is there enough?’ The answer may determine whether or not you achieve your genius…I will tell you that you are enough and there is enough. Show up and make a difference.”
Story: Tracy Donohue
Photo: Laurie Tennent