Above: 1992 (click for 2000)
Needle Tower II, Kroller Museum Museum in Otterlo, Holland

Kenneth Snelson

Kenneth Snelson's sculptures have done more to popularize the concept of tensegrity than anyone's. His large scale constructs show how compression members can provide rigidity while remaining separate, not touching one another, held in stasis only by means of tensed wires. By means of discontinuous compression and continuous tension, Snelson's multi-story towers and large scale amorphous exoskeletons of wire and steel, give dramatic, visible expression to the idea that tension and compression are the eternally complementary elements in any structure, and that great economy in materials may be achieved through strategies which rely on tension primarily, compression secondarily. In Fuller's synergetics, tensegrity becomes a metaphor for how Universe itself is constructed.

Snelson crossed paths with Fuller in 1948 at Black Mountain College, where Fuller delivered one of his Dymaxion Seminars. Deeply inspired by Fuller, but working on his own in the fall of 1948 in Oregon, Snelson came up with his first prototype structures employing discontinuous compression. Snelson returned to Black Mountain College and shared his discovery with Fuller.

Fuller saw deep implications in Snelson's discovery for his evolving Energetic Geometry and coined the term 'tensegrity' soon thereafter.

Over time, Fuller stopped crediting Snelson for making a crucial contribution to synergetics, which left Snelson feeling that this major discovery had been snatched away by an egomaniac. The resulting rift between Fuller and Snelson never healed.

Snelson felt his treatment by Fuller was symptomatic, part of a life-long pattern which revealed a flaw in Fuller's character that explains much of the resistence his ideas have encountered, in the scientific community and elsewhere (see Further Readings below).

Snelson later turned his focus to the atom, finding in our growing understanding of the atom's structure a source of inspiration for a new series of dynamic models, sculptures and computer graphics.

More pictures:

Further readings:

Other links:

maintained by Kirby Urner