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The Driving Forces Behind the Project: Wealth, Imagination

March 23, 1987|THOMAS H. MAUGH II

Biosphere II is only the latest business venture that has captivated the imagination of Edward P. Bass, a wealthy Texan.

In addition to a 300,000-acre horse and cattle ranch in Australia, a London art gallery and publishing company, and an earthquake-proof Katmandu hotel, Bass also owns Fort Worth's Caravan of Dreams, a $5-million complex containing a blues and jazz nightclub, a 220-seat theater, a book shop, an art gallery, restaurants and a karate studio.

Atop the Caravan is a geodesic dome filled with cacti and other desert plants.

Bass, 41, is one of four brothers whose combined wealth has been estimated at several billion dollars. The family fortune was founded on oil, but the brothers greatly increased their wealth by shrewd investments in the stock market.

Another driving force behind Biosphere II is John Polk Allen, 57. He is a chairman of the Institute of Ecotechnics, which conceived and now manages Biosphere II.

Allen has a bachelor's degree in metallurgy from the Colorado School of Mines and a master's in management from Harvard. In the early 1960s, he worked as an engineer on the staff of David Lilienthal, the first director of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Allen has also studied with Eastern believers in mysticism and traveled in the intellectual circles of futurologist Buckminster Fuller and beat-generation writer William Burroughs.

A writer of avant-garde dramas and a translator of classic plays, Allen established a theater ensemble in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in 1967. That group eventually moved to Santa Fe, N.M., where it grew into an ecology-oriented commune known as the Synergetic Civilization.

Allen and Bass met in Santa Fe.

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