Tensegrities: The Structural Elegance of Floating Compression

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Tensegrity structures are structures with infinitesimal mobility and are stiffened by prestressing forces at the expense of material strengths rather than increasing member sizes. They can be made more flexible or more stiff by careful member topology and adjustment of prestressing forces. Thus, the potential and success of tensegrity systems rely on the advances in material strengths. In the strength and beauty of a tensegrity lies its vulnerability. Slackening of cables and failure of a single member may result in loss of structural integrity. Tensegrity structures have attracted the interest of artists and architects alike for their lightness, material efficiency and structural elegance. Snelson showed the world that one does not have to be an engineer to construct a geometrically elegant and technically precise self-supporting structure. This paper, a homage to Snelson’s works, highlights the intriguing structural solutions where the tensegrity principle in the form of floating compression has been used in architectural applications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of IASS Annual Symposia
Issue number27
StatePublished - 2018
EventThe International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures IASS2018 Symposium - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, United States
Duration: Jun 16 2018Jul 20 2018


  • Snelson
  • tension
  • tensegrity
  • prestress
  • floating compression
  • cable-strut systems


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