Soft Knitted Tensile Membrane Tensegrity Helix-Tower

textile flexible structure tensegrity knit membrane


November 10, 2023


This paper explores project-based research approach for using knitted textiles as a participating element in a tensegrity structural system. The design of the tensegrity Helix-Tower takes advantage of the emergent elastic properties of knit material and the self-stress, self-stabilizing characteristics of tensegrity structures. The paper outlines the workflow for working with knit materials, including the feedback loop between small studies, digital models, and simulations, and from small to large prototypes. The resulting prototype is a 2.74-meter (9-foot) helix structured tensegrity tower, which is lightweight, deployable, and at a small architectural scale. The assembly process for the final construction is simple and requires no tools.

The research is novel in its exploration of using knit membranes in tensegrity structures, resulting in a structure that is ultimately more flexible and responsive to movement than traditional tensegrity structures. The design also provides more interactivity with human bodies and the environment. The paper examines the benefits of knitted membrane, including their heterogeneity and uneven stretching. Which provides softness, flexibility, and more movement to the structure. However, questions remain regarding the potential for other environmental factors such as wind or water.

Future work includes exploring the potential and problems of knitted compared to other materials used in tensegrity structures and examining the incorporation of the design into real architectural elements.