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What is Tensegrity?

What is Tensegrity?


It is an architectural concept from English Tensegrity , formed from " tensional integrity" and that translates , successfully , as tension or tension integrated integration (1).
Tensegrity system is established when a discontinuous compression set of components ( bars or pins ) interacts with another set of continuous voltage components (cables or elastic elements ), to define a stable volume in space (2) (3).

Known as "tensegrity structures" and its mathematical properties, spatial configurations are interesting from different points of view and present a number of problems still unresolved. Its applications to architecture and engineering design speak very spacious (4).This type of constructions combine large design possibilities with high strength and lightness and economy of materials.

Orígenes de la Tensegridad│Artefact Pro

Such a finding took a more consistent way when, during the course of summer 1948, at Black Mountain College (North Carolina ) agreed Richard Buckminster Fuller and Kenneth B. Snelson.

Richard Buckminster Fuller (Massachussets, 1895 -- Los Angeles, 1983) was an architect, invento, visionary and American designer. He taught geometry at the university, coining new concepts such as energy geometry, developing new synergies and revolutionary structures for mathematics and physics at the time.

Kennet B. Snelson, born in Oregon in 1927 , as an art student attending classes in summer, and it was surprised of the new concepts and possibilities of construction of the ideas that Fuller spoke in their classes. Snelson was then asked whether continue with paint or , as his teacher Josef Albers suggested , moving to the sculpture. He merging Fuller 's ideas , the so-called energy geometry, and Albers hand , some of the constructivism of the Bauhaus ( partly inspired by the work of Karl Loganson ) , he spent the autumn and winter 1948-49 in home building .

In the following summer course in 1949 , Snelson took his sculptures to Fulller , being this happy since he had used his concepts of geometry. But he insisted on using a tetrahedron base instead of a base in "X " , which was the main idea of ​​the student. Under the instructions of Fuller , Snelson worked the first mast compression discontinuous(6).

Current Applications

Tensegrity is used in numerous fields with different results ; for example, in Aquitectura the construction of the Pavilion for the Universal Exhibition of Montreal 1967 by Fuller , and many Olympic stadiums with light domes (7);

In art, Snelson 's sculptures like the tower of needles; In Engineering, the most current example is the project of developing Nasa robot models landing, model-based Tensegrity (8) (9).

Even the architecture of life : recent research on the structure of the cytoskeleton, and other biological and medical fields , suggest that such structures may be an important clue to explain biological units , the cells. These are exposed during their lives to a wide range of physical forces , generated from their associations with other cells and extracellular matrix , to the constant force of gravity . Mechanical forces play an important role in the organization , growth, maturation and function of living tissues (10). That is why , thought in employment paradigm tensegrity to biomechanics.

What is the relationship between tensegrity and human body?

Tensegrity principles apply to all levels of the body. A macroscopic scale , the 206 bones that make up our skeleton, are compressed by the force of gravity and stabilized in the vertical position by the pull exerted by the muscles , tendons and ligaments (which have a similar role to the wires Kenneth Snelson sculptures ) . In the body, the bones are the structures compression when the muscles , tendons and ligaments work in traction. At the other end of the scale, proteins and other essential molecules are also stabilized by tensegrity . So tensegrity structures mimic the behavior of cells of living organisms (11).

The first theoretical model formulation settled , the idea that the spatial arrangement of -the architecture support- elements and preestrés isométrica- -the voltage level in the cytoskeleton , are the keys to the cell to be able to stabilize its shape. The analysis of all the results indicates that the current formulation of the cell theory of tensegrity , from simple models still predicts effectively numerous static mechanical behavior and , more surprisingly, implies certain dynamic behaviors (12). Recent research provides evidence that the global network of connective tissue is continuous and manages transfers force in the body

Tensegrity and ArtefactPro.

“It has been found that any architecture life on the planet - virus to vertebrates -Share the same underlying structure at the molecular level . This call tensegrity matrix , which forms an incredibly strong and flexible fabric continuous in all parts of the body. It is this matrix that makes it possible exploits such as mobility of the neck of a giraffe, the soaring flight of an eagle and the contortions of an acrobat.”


Inspired by Tom Flemons, models; Canadian artist and inventor, has used principles of tensegrity for 30 years to design portable structures , free fences , children's toys ( Skwish ) , furniture , sculptures and mobile wind sculptures . He first noticed the formal similarity between tensegrity masts and vertebral columns in 1985 and built several models of a tensegridal spine. In the 90s , Dr. Stephen Levin , orthopedic surgeon, wrote about the connection, began working with Tom intending to devise structures that would help understanding the concept of Tensegrity in nature (14).
Fascinated by all these structures born ArteFact_Pro , materializing functionally similar to the behavior of different segments of the human body models. carefully preparing each of the designs , we provide some biomechanical models that you can explain tensegrity , and its action in the body. In this way , you can make more rigorous considerations and more easily reason concepts such as muscle chains.


I met tensegrity in 2007, at Myofascial Therapies School Tupimek in El Escorial (Madrid ), when Professor Andrzej Pilat introduced me in this physical and architectural concept , and the possibilities that exist to reason biomechanics from this framework. In addition with the help of the rest of the faculty of the school , it was extending the application to various body regions. Later , reading publications such as Donald E. Ingber or Anthony Pugh , were disturbing and began to unroll this project. Having completed leading to this continuous analysis and study of the different applications are endless to improve , understanding the scope of the tensegrity.

⦁ Buckminster Fuller R (1961) Tensegrity. Portfolio Artnews Annual 4, 112-127.
⦁ Pugh A (1976) An introduction to tensegrity. University of California Press, Berkeley.
⦁ Gómez Jáuregui, Valentín (2007). Tensegridad. Estructuras Tensegríticas en Ciencia y Arte.. Santander. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Cantabria. ⦁ ISBN 978-84-8102-437-1.
⦁ Miguel de Guzmán Ars Medica. Revista de Humanidades 2002; 2:166-176
⦁ Pedro Garcia Gareno. Mecanotransducción. Una aproximación Tensegridal. 2009; 100-105
⦁ “LAS TENSOESTRUCTURAS SE TOMAN LOS OLÍMPICOS” Estudiantes de Arquitectura Diego Mauricio Jiménez Bermúdez Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Bogotá.
⦁ Ingber, Donald E. Sci Am, The Architecture of Life. Jan 1998, 48-57. Under Creative Commons License: ⦁ Attribution Non-Commercial.
⦁ Stamenovic D, Fredberg J, Wang N, Butler J e Ingber D E (1996) A microstructural
approach to cytoskeletal mechanics based on tensegrity. J Theor Biol 181, 125 -136.

Para Saber Más:
The Buckminster Fuller Institute. http://www.bfi. org/
Kenneth Snelson.
The Architecture of Life. Ingber, Donald E. Sci Am, Jan 1998, 48-57., 11-89.

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