intension designs - biotensegrity modeling


The word 'tensegrity' (a contraction of tensional integrity) was coined by Buckminster Fuller to describe a class of structures first invented by the artist Kenneth Snelson in 1948. Tensegrity is a scientific principle that describes natural geometry in terms of compression and tension vectors. It describes structures organized at the atomic, molecular and cosmological scales. It is also hypothesized that the integrity of vertebrate biological structure is maintained by a continuous tensional web that suspends discontinuous local compressional components within it. Tensegrity provides a better framework than traditional bio-mechanics to explain why all living forms are structurally stable yet flexibly adaptive, yielding but with a great resistance to damage. Tensegrities can be seen as pneumatic structures, behaving in the same manner as air or water-filled balloons and even invertebrates can be understood as tensegrities. The air or fluid inside, under pressure acts as compression vectors that pushes omni-directionally out against the tensional skin. Like biological forms, they are flexible and able to accommodate severe loads with no shear or bending moments because they translate stresses instantly through the tension network. There are no levers or fulcrums in the traditional sense but it is possible to model various type of joints tensegrally.

Over sixty years after its discovery, tensegrity is still in an early phase of development. Anthony Pugh (in his book, Introduction to Tensegrity, published in 1976) remarked that it was difficult to predict its future at this early date- that it was likely the most important applications would be in fields other than architecture. Thirty years later the concept of biotensegrity promises a revolution in the way we understand the bio-mechanics of living structures at both microscopic (cellular) and macroscopic (anatomical) scales. Ongoing research into biotensegrity, conducted by researchers in various fields (see links) is continuously expanding our understanding. A more comprehensive bio-tensegral description is possible which could lead among other things to more successful treatment prescriptions to benefit patients and clients.

Some questions that biotensegrity poses include:

How does tensegrity operates in vertebral life forms? What is the 'geometry of anatomy'? Can we find similarities between basic tensegrity geometrical forms and anatomical forms? Are they both functionally and formally equivalent? If both then it should be possible to map the appropriate geometry to the corresponding structure of the body. These are the questions this web site attempts to answer.

What advantages does tensegrity have over traditional explanations to explain function and dysfunction? Can a biotensegrity description help integrate and develop cross-disciplinary theories? Can biotensegrity models help clinicians better explain ease and disease to their patients? These questions can only be answered by clinicians who understand the theory and can apply it to their practise.