Intension Designs Ltd.
248 Forest Ridge Road
Saltspring Island BC
Welcome to Intension Designs. As the pun suggests, these pages are about using tension networks to create tensegrity structures. All tensegrities are tension structures but not all tension structures are tensegrities—e.g. a spider's web relies on an external framework for support (branches etc.), and canopy architecture requires ground anchors for stability.
Tensegrities are different—their forms are self stabilized, independent of gravity and need no external support. They are based on the discovery by artist Kenneth Snelson and additional work by Buckminster Fuller that it's possible to design structures where a continuous tension network can suspend floating,discontinuous compression elements in some geometrical relationship to each other. The resulting forms are extremely lightweight, resilient and possess remarkable properties including the ability to withstand dynamic stress by distributing a load to all parts of the structure simultaneously.
The principle of tensegrity was unknown to previous eras- it is a fundamental discovery of the mid twentieth century. It is being increasingly employed in architecture, engineering, satellite deployment, and recently in robotics. Other applications include toys, furniture design, wind mobiles, sculptures, and jewelry. (see galleries)
It has been apparent to a few maverick scientists for decades, that living structures demonstrate the qualities of tensional integrity, and researchers have been exploring the links between tensegrity and biology for several decades. Dr. Donald Ingber at Harvard has been working at the cellular level while physician Dr. Stephen Levin has focused on the macro level of gross anatomy. Many others have joined the field in the past decade and there is now active research worldwide in a wide variety of disciplines.
This site describes and links to some of the new research and specifically offers a biotensegrity description of anatomical structure. (see The Geometry of Anatomy) Various tensegrity models of human anatomy with different degrees of complexity are illustrated. Feedback or questions are welcome.
I have been researching and helping to develop the concepts that underlie the theory of biotensegrity for 30 years. And for the past 15 years I've focused on designing and building models that illustrate this principle operating at the level of structural anatomy in vertebrates. I've been contacted by hundreds of people over this period, and have had many fruitful and interesting conversations about tensegrity and biology. My thinking has evolved and I now wish to focus for the next while on applications of the theory in the fields of prosthetics and robotics.
For this reason I have decided to 'take a sabatical' and to stop making biotensegrity models for a year or more. I want to build on what I've learned and make articulating tensegrity structures that are more robust using new materials and new insights. I'm excited to be collaborating with computer scientists and roboticists on new projects in this regard and will be reporting my discoveries and progress here on my website as I find time.
My apologies to those who were waiting patiently for a model. I hope to have some youtube instructional videos up soon that will demonstrate how you can make many of the models yourself. And depending on what I find out I may return with new models to share in a years time.