Tension Pavilion 2016

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Read here about a pavilion built on tensegrity principles for the by StructureMode.


Tension is a lightweight pavilion with a tensegrity ring and tensile fabric membrane, first conceived for the Vision exposition in Olympia London, 7-8 June 2016. It was also exhibited in HOK's London office atrium in July 2016 and built outside with the help of students at Westminster University, as part of their playweek. It has been designed to be suitable for external use and is designed to resist 75mph winds.

Tension pavilion, at HOK's atrium in London. July 2016 Photo: StructureMode"

Text By StructureMode StructureMode described the project in this text, accessed 13/03/2017:

The system was developed by Kenneth Snelson and Buckminster Fuller in the 1960’s. It is characterised by compression elements that do not touch but are suspended in a ‘sea’ of tension cables, as well as being a self stable system that does not rely on external structures for its stability, such as compression rings or guy ropes. Pioneering research into the system by Fuller and Snelson led to a series of sculptural experiments, but pure tensegrity has rarely been utilised for a building structure.

The sinuous geometry provides a minimal base on three points, with three arches between to generate an anticlastic fabric surface. This doubly-curved surface makes the tensile fabric strong when resisting loads in any direction. There are 24 tensegrity modules to form a torus, each of which have varying geometry to generate the smooth curvature. All coordinates were generated using Grasshopper, parametric modelling software, and the pavilion was analysed using Oasys GSA.

StructureMode have undertaken meticulous form-finding to derive a stable tensegrity geometry, rigorous non-linear analysis to optimise the size of all elements and testing to prove the system has been accurately modelled.

StructureMode, Weber Industries and Base Structures worked closely together to refine the connections to maintain legibility of the structure while keeping it simple to fabricate and easy to erect.

Fabricator for ring: Weber Industries & StructureMode Fabricator for fabric: Base Structures

Geoff Morrow, engineer with StructureMode, wrote about Vision in TheStructuralEngineer October 2016.

"We turned the system on its side and bent it to create a sinuous ring of 24 tensegrity modules where all members in tension are slender cables and those in compression are solid timber sections; the ring supports a fabric canopy. This involved us developing a Grasshopper script to generate a parametric model to derive the curving geometry of all the elements, while maintaining the principles of a tensegrity system. Having done this, we can now design any size and shape of tensegrity system for any purpose--we're just waiting for a suitable commission."

Photo Gallery

Tension pavilion, at HOK's atrium in London. July 2016 Photo: StructureMode"

For an extensive collection of photos, see the Tension Pavilion 2016 Photo Gallery page.

Links, References

StructureMode main page, http://www.structuremode.com/projects/tension-pavilion/

Weber Industries page on the pavilion, http://weberindustries.com/projects/structure-mode

HOK London office atrium, http://www.hok.com/design/region/europe/hok-london--qube/