Magical Thingamabobs

At the moment the easiest to see and potentially get one of my tensegrity structures comes in the 'Magical Thingamabob' form. For as often as the weather allows, yet never on Fridays, I set up shop at City Square, Melbourne.

While I do my best not to repeat myself, and experiment a bit while I'm showing my work, I have a set of structures which I always bring build up. Some others travel with me, and depending on how busy I am otherwise, might appear a bit later.

Preparing the sticks takes the most time, and becomes nearly like meditation. Otherwise, it would just plain boring :) Depending on the material the first step is cutting the material to equal length, then drilling all the tiny slits properly aligned at the end. Then I cut the required strings to length, knot the ends, trim off the excess, and seal the knot in non-stretchy tendons.

For most objects I then thread the string in a specific way through the slits, ending up with a bunch of sticks with strings attached. That's when the fun begins, assembling some kind of two-dimensional pieces into a three-dimensional object.

While it takes usually just some minutes to assemble one of the 'standard' models, each of it has at least an hour of work in it. Experiments might keep me busy for days before I succeed or move on, as well as spray painting struts for special effects.

Many aspects attract me to my creations. They define space while remaining open. They look fragile, yet showing resilience. They change appearance from different perspectives. They feel in surprising ways when touched. They embody doing more with less. They encode basic patterns of Universe.

You cannot capture the impression of shapeshifting while walking along a tensegrity structure, or turning it around in your hands, in a still shot. The mind cannot predict the transformation, and instead will detect more and more patterns in it. Your hands will find out in which way a structure wants to go, and which shape it resists.

The sticks don't touch, held in position by a network of strings.  The pure expression of nature's main engineering principle seems to defy gravity, an optical truth unravelling the mystery of life. Or, if you prefer, something awesome to look at and play with.

6 strut icosahedron 
It's either a bad shot, or a slightly skewed model, however, the simple version of the icosahedron (20 triangular faces), turns out be the most popular model in my collection. The current variation comes with 15cm struts and black string, I might do some more 10cm or 20 cm ones, and will switch to transparent string soon.

3 colour 6 strut icosahedron
The 20 cm version comes in 3 colours, which basically can be a combination of the three primary colours (red, blue, yellow) and the 3 secondary colours (purple, green, orange).

Four colour octahedron
Another highly popular model is the 15cm octahedron in four colours. It feels very pliable, and can be placed so that three sticks of the same colour point upwards, or so that all four colours come together to form a square.

20 cm black tipped octahedron
While the smaller octahedron uses exactly one string per stick, I use a different way to create a similar network of strings. In this case 12 non-elastic (orange) and 6 elastic strings are used. The black tips help structuring the visual chaos a little bit.

Face-bonded 3 colour dual tetrahedra

Diamond derives its hardness from the crystalline structure. On the smallest scale, diamonds grow as face-bonded tetrahedra. I wonder how many people potentially subconsciously know the secret to of this structure, and get attracted to it.
20 cm face-bonded tetrahedra

In the 20 cm variation the coloured strut represent the edges where the two tetrahedra meet. The object squeezes only in one direction, yet balances on each of the five (stellated) corners. If you don't like the colours, but the shape, your preferred colour combination can be build in very short time.

yin yang cuboctahedron

This 24 strut structure, based on the geometry of the Vector Equilibrium, is the largest collapsible object in my collection. I used to build this shape with four colours instead of just black, yet this variation exceeded my expectation by far.

Spiral rocket
While this model can't collapse, you can still fold it. It's the simplest model to demonstrate how to levitate one of the sticks. 

Teal seesaw

This model shows a seesaw without any hinges, either end of the white stick and stably rest on the ground, in all three orientations.

This four stick tensegrity outlines a tetrahedron. The sticks miss each other in the centre, connected in an x-module fashion. I usually build a 20cm and 30 cm version after setting up.

10 strut dodecahedron

The network of strings in this object shape a slightly irregular dodecahedron. The combination of non-elastic and elastic string multiply the number of hidden shapes one can discover in it.

Black honey

This object has 12 nodes aligned like the corners of an icosahedron, yet the tension network creates six hexagonal openings. It's safe to handle, yet might break easily when pressure is applied.

Butterfly tetra
Like the object above, I assemble this structure after setting up, and not every time. I love the illusion of curvature it creates. Due to the small size, it takes a very close and thorough inspection to confirm that no strut touch each other. Even if they do, it's apparently not in a supporting way.

As mentioned initially, photos can only show a single perspective, and some them even surprised me, as I attempted to capture my work in a new way. I usually have lots of material with me to custom build any of the above objects - difficult requests can often be done on the spot, impossible requests might take some days :)

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