1949: Tensegrity – Black Mountain College, North Carolina
Location: Black Mountain College, North Carolina
By: R. Buckminster Fuller
R. Buckminster Fuller began working with the concept of Tensegrity in 1948 while he was teaching at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He would attract the attention of an artist Kenneth Snelson who created seemingly floating sculptures, but Fuller would not coin the term Tensegrity, or “Tensional Integrity” until 1955 . Tensegrity is defined as a structural principle involving isolated components of compressing surrounded by a net of continuous tension that the compressional members do not touch and the tensioned members outline the structure. Because of this design structural members will not exhibit a bending moment. Tensile forces exert themselves over the most direct path between two points and since members in Tensegrity are positioned at these paths, the members are incredibly strong despite their small mass and cross sections.
In the mid 1900’s Fuller and Snelson became famous for their structures that exhibited Tensegrity, including Fuller’s Montreal Biosphere and Snelson’s sculpture, Soft Landing. Other architectural works such as the Kurilpa Bridge in Brisbane, Australia use the principle of Tensegrity. The principle is also exhibited in biology and chemistry.