SARA HART, “Buckminster Fuller's Dreams of Spanning Great Distances Are Being Realized in Big Projects”, in “Architectural Record 05.02”, New York, McGraw-Hill Companies, May 2002, pages 267-276
This article introduces us to Buckminster Fuller’s tensegrity structures. Tensegrity structures are networks of cables and compression members, which make spanning great distances possible. Subsequently, the article depicts the evolution and improvement of these structures and presents and analyses three contemporary long-span structures:
- The National Botanic Garden of Wales, by Foster and partners
- “Miller Park”, a stadium by NBBJ Sports & Entertainment
- The “CargoLifter” Airship Hangar, by SIAT Architektur + Technik
Personal thoughts about the article
What I don’t like about this article is the fact that it doesn’t seem to show much cohesiveness. The article starts out with an overview of Fuller’s long-spans (his tensegrity domes), followed by the improvements made to these constructions by Geiger. So far so good, but before beginning the actual presentation of the three contemporary projects, the reader is pointed out that these projects aren’t actually tensegrity types. “But they all share some ancestry with the Fuller and Geiger.” Then what’s the point of the introduction?
Besides this minor remark, I actually liked the article in general. I found it interesting to be informed about the contemporary engineering possibilities, about its marvel. The mentioned projects illustrate the convergence of architecture and engineering in exiting new ways.
Not only do these projects span immense distances, they do also address a range of other technical challenges: the use of rainwater to water the plants in the botanical garden, the retractable roof of the stadium that combines the possibility to use natural grass with the comfort of being protected from the elements,…
What also interested me was the fact that these projects wouldn’t be possible without the CAD tools available nowadays. The botanical garden, for example, was build based upon a 3D CAD model. Conventional working drawings couldn’t describe its complex geometry.