If geodesic domes are not appreciable without some familiarity with synergetics, tensegrity structures are incomprehensible without it.
"Tensegrity" is another neologism: it is a contraction of "tensioned integrity". Mere definition is not so helpful here:
"tensegrity is an inherently non-redundant confluence of optimum structural-effort effectiveness factors" (Synergetics 700.03)
Geodesic domes are, strictly speaking, tensegrity structures, but as physical structures they do differ visibly from tensegrity domes in that, while geodesic domes are composed of interconnected compression rods (which may also be under tension depending on prevailing loads), the compression rods in the tensegrity structures are "islanded" in a continuous tension network of cables.
This arrangement, whereby compression rods do not join each other, takes advantage of the great load-bearing superiority of tension to compression.
Study of tensegrity structures led Fuller to the astonishing conclusion (backed up by calculations) that a 3.5 km wide dome could be built over most of Manhattan (see Manhattan Dome).
What Fuller has to say about tensegrity takes up about 80 pages in the two volumes of "Synergetics" (Section 700).
For the origins of tensegrity, see Snelson.
American Scientist, March-April 1998, Volume 86, No. 2
Mathematics and Tensegrity - Robert Connelly and Allen Back
Group and representation theory allow cataloguing certain "strut-cable" constructions.
THE FULLER MAP
© Paul Taylor 2001