Day 258/365 of Steel – Kenneth Snelson

Kenneth Snelson (June 29, 1927 – December 22, 2016) was an American contemporary sculptor and photographer. His sculptural works are composed of flexible and rigid components arranged according to the idea of ‘tensegrity’.

Kenneth Snelson's tensegrity sculpture outside the National Library of Medicine on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
Fig 1: Kenneth Snelson’s tensegrity sculpture outside the National Library of Medicine on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
Photo: Danski14

Snelson preferred the descriptive term floating compression. Snelson was born in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1927. He studied at the University of Oregon in Eugene, at the Black Mountain College, where he was a student of Buckminster Fuller and with Fernand Léger in Paris.

Kenneth Snelson Needle Tower
Fig 2: Kenneth Snelson Needle Tower
Photo: Onderwijsgek

Known as the Father of Tensegrity, Snelson defines tensegrity as “solid elements set in space and supporting each other through tension”. However, he prefers to refer to his work as “floating compression” or “endoskeletal prestressed structures”.

3-Way Core Tower, Stainless Steel
Fig 3: 3-Way Core Tower, Stainless Steel
Photo: © Pierre Le Hors

Similar to da Vinci’s self-supporting bridge, Snelson’s artworks rely on the balanced forces of tension and compression to remain standing. The height and strength of Snelson’s sculptures, which are often delicate in appearance, depend on the tension between rigid pipes and flexible cables.

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

You May Also Like

Day 2/365 of Steel – Roy Hofheinz

Roy Hofheinz was born on the 10th of april 1912. As co-owner of HSA (Houston Sports Association) he was the driving force behind the construction of the famous Astrodome. The…
Read More

Day 19/365 of Steel – The Gherkin

On the 28th of April 2004, The Gherkin was officially inaugurated. Norman Foster (architect) and Ove Arup (engineering) created a true masterpiece in skyscraper engineering. The Gherkin is an example…
Read More

Day 29/365 of Steel – Menashe Kadishman

Menashe Kadishman (21/8/1932 – 8/5/2015) I discovered Kadishman’s work during our visit to the Jewish Museum in Berlin.The Memory Void, one of the symbolic spaces on the ground level of…
Read More