Flemons, Tom

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Read here about Tom Flemons (1953-2018) a leading creator of tensegrity models of the human body. Flemons is also the creator of the Skwish , a children's toy that has sold millions of models to date.

Short Biography

Tom Flemons of Intension Designs created tensegrity models and sculptures for decades. His last works focused on human anatomical structures. Be sure to read his article, The Geometry of Anatomy - the Bones of Tensegrity on his website.

From his http://intensiondesigns.ca%7Cwebsite: Tom Flemons is an artist and inventor that has employed tensegrity principles for 30 years to design portable structures, free-standing fences, children's toys (Skwish), furniture, mobiles and sculptures. He first noticed the formal resemblance between tensegrity masts and vertebral 'columns' in 1985 and built several models of a tensegral spine which he sold to doctors and chiropractors. A search of the medical literature on bio-mechanics revealed no one was exploring the similarity of spines and tensegrity masts. However an orthopedic surgeon - Dr. Stephen Levin was writing about the connection and eventually he and Tom met and began to work together in the 90's.

For over ten years, in collaboration with Dr. Levin, Tom has built many bio-tensegrity analogs of vertebrate anatomy and it has proved quite possible to model the body using tensegrity. Each iteration approaches a better accuracy and resolution of anatomy and in turn sparks insight into an explanation of bio-mechanics that does not require levers and fulcrums.

Selected Videos by Tom Flemons

Flemons occasionally posts videos of his dynamic models.

Above, a three fold tensegrity spiral mast composed of wooden struts and an elastic tension net is actuated by using three vertical control lines. (For greater control, six control lines are needed). The mast illustrates the force vectors active in living forms such as an octopus, an elephant trunk, or a cat's tail. It also schematizes how fascial support in the spine can assist in lateral and rotational movement but also provides stability by stiffening the mast when required by tightening the control lines.

Model Image Gallery

We divide Flemon's work into biological, anatomical models and non-human anatomical models. The images are from http://www.intensiondesigns.com/gallery_sculptures.html.


The following tensegrity models represent human or animal anatomical forms.

Albert, the Human Skeleton Model

Albert Full Skeleton by Tom Flemons
Albert skeleton, sidebow Torso with Pelvis and Femurs, by Tom Flemons
Right upper extremity modelled as a sequence of interconnecting icosahedral tensegrities with compression struts of different lengths. Model by Flemons.

Human Spine

For more information, see spine.

6 nucleated tetrahedral struts in a vertebra-like column, by Flemons
human rib cage abstract model with curved struts by Tom Flemons
26 tetrahedral nucleated stuts in a column, forming a vertebrate-like structure, by Tom Flemons
Spine, spiral vertebral mast, models 05-TVM-3
Spine, tetrahedral model, model 05-TVM-3 by Tom Flemons
Spine, tetrahedral vertebral mast, model 05-TVM-3by Tom Flemons
Spiral Vertebral Mast by Tom Flemons
Thoracic vertabrae by Tom Flemons

Human Pelvis

For more information, see pelvis.


The following tensegrity models do not represent human anatomical forms. Some are pure abstract tensegrities, while others protray real


The Skwish, a commercially produced and sold toy designed by Tom Flemons"

For more information, see Skwish.

Floating Logs

Flemons wrote: Larger tensegrities begin to run up against limits imposed by weight and material strength. The Floating Logs sculpture for example weighs approximately 1000 lbs yet the tensional forces required to 'pull' it together exceed two tons. The larger the structure the lighter and stronger the materials need to be and the more fail safe the tensional components and linkages.

Floating Logs by Tom Flemons"
Floating Logs by Tom Flemons"


12 birds tensegrity by Tom Flemons


Table supported by 3 strut tensegrity, the struts are crutches. By Tom Flemons"
Chair supported by a three strut tensegrity, the struts are wavilinear. By Tom Flemons"
Compass Table: glass supported by 2 v-expanders and curved glass by Tom Flemons"
floating lampshade with 12 panels by Tom Flemons"

Bicycle Wheel

Ezekiel's Wheel, tensegrity elaboration of bicycle wheel, by Tom Flemons"

Plexiglass Mast

8 unit mast by Flemons plexiglass, front, by Tom Flemons"
8 unit mast by Flemons plexiglass, side, by Tom Flemons"

Links and References