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  #1  
Old 02-05-2007, 09:47 AM
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Merlion Merlion is offline
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Tensegrity Sculpture

Interesting idea for tall metal sculptures. Click into the linked sete to see two photos.

But this statement from the site worries me. "Cutting a wire in a tensegrity structure causes a major deformation or collapse." I would follow normal engineering practice to introduce what is called 'built-in redudency' so that when one structural member is damaged, the structure still stands.

Tensegrity Sculpture

Kenneth Snelson creates his airy sculptures from metal. His structures are not hard joined but exist due to tension of individual elements. A term tensegrity was suggested structures of this type as combination of two words tension and integrity. ....

Cutting a wire in a tensegrity structure causes a major deformation or collapse.

Using principle of tensegrity he created many towers and other sculptures from aluminium and steel. You can see two photos of 60 feet high sculpture "Needle Tower" which was created in 1968. To the right is the front view of the tower and below is view from the basis of the tower.
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Old 02-05-2007, 06:57 PM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

I have seen this work before and because of the tenision and movement created by wind currents etc I imagine that the tension is created by cable woven from some kind of steel alloy. Friction will eventionally cut one of the cables or the struts, but it will be a long time, and nothing is eternal. Probably many major pieces of architecture will come and go before this tower of tension fails.

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Old 02-06-2007, 01:23 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

It is true nothing is eternal, Thatch (except the ads for diamonds). But old tall sculptures will slowly deteriorate and will still stand waiting for repair. At the worst, some parts will drop off.

But this type of wire-rope and strut structure may collapse completely if a structural member fails, unless there is what engineers call 'build-in redudency'. For instance, the Eiffle Tower, the Sydney Harbour and the Golden Gate bridges do not collapse if one member fail. It would be catastropic if they do.

I have a feeling Snelson's sculpture does have this feature. It would be fool hardy, even irresponsible, if he built a 60-ft sculpture without doing so. It may be the journalist who misunderstood things and wrote it wrongly.
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Old 02-06-2007, 10:43 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

Merlion, I am surprised a well educated engineer such as yourself is not familiar with these structures- I know that in the late 60's, as a teenager, I was fascinated by them, and built several tabletop models myself.

There is no redundancy in these types of designs, so they are not really suitable for actual architecture or things that could potentially injure or kill people if they failed. Which is why they are primarily seen as sculptures.

One of them was in Hurricane Katrina, at the New Orleans Museum- and it was totally destroyed- and another of his sculptures was destroyed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
So they are definitely more fragile than a stone, or cast bronze sculputure- but I would say that is part of their appeal- the fragility, the way heavy pieces of metal are suspended in the air by a few small cables.

They remind me of Frei Otto's buildings, which, I would assume, have a bit more redundancy and safety measures, but only a bit- and capture that same soaring feeling of mass floating in space.
http://www.freiotto.com/FreiOtto%20o...eiteGross.html
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Old 02-06-2007, 07:32 PM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

I should note that the New Orleans piece described by Ries, which was one of only 2 - 3 outdoor sculptures at NOMA that were damaged by Katrina, has been repaired. I think a California company did the repair, which I think consisted mainly of cleaning or polishing the open steel tubes and possibly replacing the steel cables.

It was mounted in a lagoon and wind alone apparently caused the damage.
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Old 02-06-2007, 07:48 PM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

Well, Reis, it does not matter if you or anybody else are surprised. Let's talk about the topic.

Fritchie noted that one of the artist's tall sculptures at New Orleans is built on a lagoon. This means there is no chance of anybody underneath or nearby if there is any accidental collapse. This may be how he positions his other tall cable and strut sculptures.
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Old 02-07-2007, 07:48 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

Merlion, please dont take offense- I was not trying to be rude.

I do think the issue here is the dividing line between sculpture and functional structures.
Sculpture can be much more free in its form, permanence, and it can take risks, both real and metaphorical.

Buildings, on the other hand, must function first- then they may get playful.

Obviously I am not in favor of intentionally endangering people. Although I have been at some art events where the artist did just that. If you are not familiar with his work, you might check out Mark Pauline, at Survival Research Laboratories. His sculpture is thrilling, loud, and frequently quite dangerous- much more risk involved than a Snelson sculpture.
And yet, it speaks about our current love/hate affair with technology, and about human behaviour, as expressed by machines.

I would also point out Burning Man as a venue for sculptures that are potentially dangerous and risky- although, unlike Snelsons work, they are temporary, not permanent. Burning Man is currently the largest funder of sculpture in California, which is the 5th largest economy in the World.
Huge pieces are built, disassembled, and transported there, to exhibit for only a few days. Many are without a doubt inadequately engineered.
But some are truly awe-inspiring. Kinetic works, Light, Sound, and Computers, huge structures, and, of course, lots of burning.
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Old 02-07-2007, 10:50 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

Snelson has a huge one at Storm King, my favorite sculpture place. The steel members seem to have been tossed into the air and captured by the cables. There is a visceral tension as well as an actual one. It would be disastrous if any heavy thing fell down on someone. I do not suspect these sculptures are any more in danger of falling apart than anything else. One day we'll fall apart too, not necessarily to the great suprise of anyone.
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Old 02-07-2007, 11:23 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

I think it's useful to note that while there is no redundancy built into "tensegrity" structures, many of the larger pieces by Snelson are actually composed of smaller, self-contained structures. So while if a cable is cut it will deform, but only to the barrier of the next contained structure. Of course, only Snelson would be able to point out where and how many of these smaller sub-tensegrity units there are in any given piece. At any rate, I doubt the larger pieces would collapse absolutely if any one cable was cut. More likely it would sag horribly.
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:02 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

I was recently in Baltimore and encountered this Snelson from 1978. I was vastly impressed. This is better than the one at Storm King. Action, spontanaeity (though I know it was actually tediously designed with exactitude), jumble, tumble, gravity-defying, shiny, HUGE, and 100% ART...whether his hands were on it or not. Home runs, rollercoasters, filet mignons, sacks of cash, nobel prizes, world peace...none of it can enrich, inspire, entertain, educate and fulfill like really good Art.
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  #11  
Old 05-03-2008, 10:36 AM
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Re: Tensegrity Sculpture

Thanks Evaldart. I am sure the feeling must be different seeing such structural art in person.

Perhaps they should install this at an even higher ground, so that viewers can see it without background building obstruction.

I once tried to make a small version using pvc pipes and plastic rope. I couldn't manage to make it stand up, and I later on abandoned the idea.
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