Tensegrity Space frame Lights / Michal Maciej Bartosik

The tensioned overall space frame light is composed of a four-bar lamp mold whose geometry is a derivative of a cubic structure.

Project Specs


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The tensegrity space frame light is comprised of a four strut lamp module whose geometry is the derivative of a cube.

It affords a stable platonic structure with the ability to orthogonally tessellate in the x,y.z axes without change to its orientation to produce generic architectural elements such as: columns, roofs, walls and beams. Because tensegrity yields a system of structural correlation, moment force is eliminated and makes way for a high strength to weight ratio; as the system’s surface area increases, to a greater extent so too does its rigidity, allowing for generous spans and cantilevers. When arrayed, each consecutive module is pinned to the latter using its lamp connector to fasten to the mid point of an adjacent electrical tendon. The uniform array produces two distinct patterns of lamp and lattice. Where the lamps produce a luminous weave that at times resembles an orthogonal grid of offset lines, the lattice generates a sequential pattern of two distinct squares rotated at 45 degrees, one four times the size of the other.

Although Bartosik arrived at the proposed system independently through his continual experimentation; it should be noted that Mr. Marcelo Pars produced a similar structural module which narrowly predates his discovery.



Although it was Snelson who pioneered floating compression, without Fuller’s technological prowess and industrialist ambitions, tensegrity would have remained obscured from the world as the mere subject of an artistic practice. My desire to combine light with tensegrity was a means to reconcile Snelson with Fuller. In this way, to put light in compression elevates Snelson’s sleigh of hand to a level having higher stakes, while the material fragility of the glass lamp in compression resonates with a Fullerian structural purity.


The tensegrity space frame light eliminates previous redundancies between light and structure in order to produce luminous form. Utilizing Snelson’s structural discovery, appropriated and popularized by Buckminster Fuller as tensegrity, the light source and its electrical wire work mutually in compression and tension to produce a seemingly discontinuous field of light defined only by its inherent and modular structural logic.


Although the idea of tensegrity is not new, I was interested in applying its properties of structural correlation (elimination of moment forces) to produce a light fixture using only its light source (lamp) and electrical conduit (wire). Since these are the ad minimum elements required for a light, and as they often depend on a physical armature to supply its fixture, tensegrity was a structural means by which lamp and wire constitute both the light and the fixture.

OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTIONThe tensegrity space frame light suggests new possibilities for a marriage between structure and lighting. Its scalability, and the economy of its production speak to a comm

odity of endless configuration and use whose ephemeral qualities of light allude to spaces and volumes not yet fully determined. Visually didactic, its luminous form lays out the predicament of all physical bodies, and in doing so, gracefully resists the pull of gravity with a simplicity that affirms the paradigm of our epoch: To achieve more whilst using less.



Inception: November 2011, Toronto
Working prototype: January 2012, Toronto
Exhibited: IDS, January 2012, Toronto
Second iteration: January 2013, Toronto
Exhibited: Design Exchange, October 2013, Toronto 



The tensegrity space frame light is as much an engineering strategy as it is an economic one; what Buckminster Fuller referred to as ‘Less for more’. Tensegrity by design yields a high strength to weight ratio whereby a minimal amount of material is needed to produce forms of extensive surface area and volume. In other words, the minimal amount of material and ease with which it is manufactured mimics the minimal amount of necessary structure and ease with which it disperses gravitational force.


The design phase can be summarized by two unknowns: Can tensegrity yield a module that can tessellate orthogonally in three directions? Can the market supply a fluorescent lamp that is inexpensive, slim, and with a power supply whose capacity exceeds that of a conventional ballast. The design of the module began in computer simulations in search of arraying patterns with a potential of standing up. A coincident model building laboratory proved the limitations of computer space in the absence of gravity. The lamp was sourced via internet.

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