Tomassian, Raffi

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Read here about a tensegrity researcher who is an architect and designer.


Raffi Tomassian is an architect and designer, he worked with DNK Architects and Moshe Safdie Associates. He holds degress from the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. MSArch; Architecture, 1997, and University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, Sofia, Bulgaria, Professional Degree in Architecture (MA equivalent), 1994.

Tensegrity explorations and studies

A selection of Tomassian's work involving tensegrity, from his website.

Kid's Playground

Originally a competition entry that won an Honorable Mention at the international student competition An Architectural Fantasy in 3D in 1994. The piece is a tensegrity installation where stiff subassemblies are rigged in a web of steel rope. The ladders do not touch one another. The allusion with a kids climb-up equipment is obvious, as is the attempt to reach for something intangible, higher up. That climber upper will require more skill and daring to use. To be executed in stainless steel or bronze tubing with stainless steel cable.

Stairway to Heaven

A sculpture consisting of eight ladders joined in a tensegrity mast. Competition entry - Hon. Mention, 1993

Later named the "Push Pull" project. Tomassian wrote: "This proposal features a 24′ tall tensegrity sculpture in which ladder-like forms float in a gossamer of high-tenacity polyester fiber filaments. A stairway to heaven, a metaphor of the futility of the rat race, and a stunning display of equilibrium, or?…"

Push-pull sculpture, close up. By Raffi Tomassian.
Push-pull sculpture, night time elevation view. By Raffi Tomassian.
Push-pull sculpture, structural diagram. By Raffi Tomassian.
Push-pull sculpture, side view. By Raffi Tomassian.
Push-pull sculpture, contact sheet view. By Raffi Tomassian.

Synclastic and Anticlastic: Win–Win Interaction of Pressurized and Tensioned Membranes

Summary. The proposed work aims to draw attention to a rarely investigated problem – the mechanical interaction between pre-stressed tensile membranes and high-pressure inflated elements. Particular emphasis is placed on to the possibility of buckling stabilization of inflated beams by conbyning them with tensioned membranes. Structural stabilization of curved compressed elements is also studied. This research generates a proposal for new optimized air beam supported structures. It draws parallels with tensegrity principles.

La Terre Vue Du Ciel

A proposal for the design and layout of outdoor display units for a travelling exhibition of 120-150 photographs and additional information materials featuring the art photography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The unit is built to tensegrity structural principles.


Raffi Tomassian wrote:

The classic, widely accepted definition of tensegrities describes them as structures where discontinuous compressive members float within a continuous tensile web. In dissegrity, the structural integrity is maintained within a system where both compression and tension elements are islanded. Dissegrity emphasizes the uniqueness of its composition and differentiates it among the pattern integrities. The striking feature is that the tendons which keep it together are far fewer than those that would normally be deployed for structural stability of the assembly. This creates an awkward tendency of the structure to deflect, which can easily be remedied by adding cables, but is engaging for sculptural purposes.

My future plans for dissegrity studies:

  • scale up by multiplying the members into a higher order of a generative polyhedron. I have studied two of those, respectively with 12 and 20 struts
  • move towards asymmetry
  • apply the principle into a meaningful sculptural composition
  • export it into a furniture series

Links and References