Tensegrity As Metaphor

"Tensegrity, or tensional integrity, is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other and the pre-stressed-tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.

The term tensegrity was coined by Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s as a portmanteau of "tensional integrity". The other denomination of tensegrity, floating compression, was used mainly by Kenneth Snelson."

Tensegrity is all around us, appearing in nature from the atomic level, all the way up to the grand cosmic scale. Even in our human body, muscles and tendons stretched across bones are great examples of tensegrity in action.

"Tensegrity structures are structures based on the combination of a few simple design patterns:

  • Loading members only in pure compression or pure tension, meaning the structure will only fail if the cables yield or the rods buckle.
  • Pre-load or Tensional Pre-stress, which allows cables to be rigid in compression.
  • Mechanical stability, which allows the members to remain in tension/compression as stress on the structure increases.

Because of these patterns, no structural member experiences a bending moment. This can produce exceptionally rigid structures for their mass and for the cross section of the components."

Buckminster Fuller, happily holding a giant tensegrity sphere.

Buckminster Fuller, happily holding a giant tensegrity sphere.

Tensegrity Structure Kit Instructions

With the right balance of dexterity, thinking, and teamwork, you too can create this structure!

With the right balance of dexterity, thinking, and teamwork, you too can create this structure!

If you're lucky enough to have received one of our custom-made tensegrity structure kits, you've already got everything you need to build beautiful structures like the icosahedron (shown adjacent).

If you do not have a kit, or would like to build one yourself, you will need:

  • 6 Dowels With Notches On Each End
  • 6 Rubber Bands of Reasonable Tension

In our kit, we used 6" long dowels of 5/16ths diameter -and- Size 32 Rubber Bands.

Wrap a rubber band around each dowel, nestling them through the slots on each end. From there, you can being stretching the dowels between alternating rubber bands to create all manner of structures!

To build an icosahedron, we recommend following the visual guide or video below:

Icosehdron-Model.jpg