Make a Tensegrity Tower

Tensegrity is a structural system. The term was invented by American architect Buckminster Fuller, combining the words tension and integrity.

Tensegrity describes a tension structure in which the elements in compression (which are usually made of a rigid material) do not touch each other but are instead connected by elements in tension like elastic or string.

Public art is an important part of society. Tensegrity structures are both structural and sculptural, and the efficient use of materials is also sustainable.

Learn how to make beautiful structures like Kenneth Snelson (click the link to check out his work), and create your own!

Step by Step

Step 1

Trim the plastic straw so that it is roughly the length of 2 and a half elastic bands when they are not taut (stretched or pulled tight). Cut three straws of the same length.

Step 2

Slit both ends of the plastic straw with a pair of scissors. The cut should be roughly 1cm, you can approximate this length by lightly touching your thumb and index finger together.

Step 3

Hook the elastic band into both ends of the straw where you created a slit. Repeat this with all three straws.

Step 4

Cut 6 small pieces of straw approximately the same length as the slits you cut earlier. Use two different coloured straws and cut 3 pieces of each. These are your straw ends. Place the straw ends on the ends of the three straws.

Step 5

1) Remove the green (colour A) straw end from two of the straws.

2) Take the elastic band from one of these straws and hook it into the slit of the other.

3) Place the straw ends back onto the straws.

Step 6

1) Remove the green (colour A) straw end from the last straw and one of the straws already attached.

2) Take the elastic band from the last straw and hook it into the slit of the other straw.

3) Place the straw ends back onto the straws.

Step 7

1) Remove the green (colour A) straw ends from the two straws at the ends of the sequence.

2) Take the elastic band from the first straw- this should be the straw that has not had its elastic hooked onto a neighbouring straw yet- and hook it onto the last straw at the other end of the sequence.

3) Place the straw ends back onto the straws.

Step 8

Hold the three straws in your hand so that you can now attach the elastic bands on the other end. Take the purple (colour B ) straw ends off.

Step 9

Hook the elastic band from one of the straws into the slit of the straw next to it.

Step 10

Hook the elastic band from the next straw into the slit of the third straw.

Step 11

Hook the elastic band from the third and last straw into the slit of the first straw.

Step 12

Place all the purple (colour B) straw ends onto the ends of all the straws.

Step 13

Adjust the straws by holding the elastic band in place with one hand and pulling the straw around with other hand, until your tensegrity stands up on its own.

Congratulations!

You have made a self supporting, fantabulous tensegrity!

Step 14

1) Make a second tensegrity following the same steps.

2) Remove all the purple (colour B) straw ends from your first tensegrity.

Step 15

Insert all the slit ends into the elastic bands – the ‘triangle’ shape at the top of the tensegrity.

Congratulations!

You’ve made a tensegrity tower! Keep making more tensegrities and attaching them to each other in the same way to make an even taller tower.

This activity was designed by former Accelerate student Bareera Borhan, who is a part 1 architecture graduate from Central St Martins.

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