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DESIGNER
FREI OTTO
DATE
1963
LOCATION
Stuttgart, Germany
TYPE
experimental
USE
Kinetic column
Movable Guyed Mast

The Institute of Lightweight Structures in Stuttgart has been involved with breakthrough experimentations regarding alternative building methods inspired by nature. The Movable Guyed Mast is one of the rare projects in this direction that exhibit transformability. A central vertical element under compression, which may be comprised of one or more parts connected with a ball-point joint, is basically stabilized and controlled by tension-loaded cables, creating an articulated kinetic tower. The Movable Guyed Mast can either stiffen to resist or bend to a force coming from a specific direction (for example wind or earthquake), or for aesthetic purposes, by changing the length of the connecting cables. The system is actuated by changing the length of the cables simultaneously with synchronized hydraulic presses located at the anchoring point. Despite the striking degree of flexibility observed in the operational Movable Guyed Mast models, the experiments never gave way to the implementation of an actual structural system. The large number of cables needed to control the structure along with the lack of sophisticated control systems at the time could not render this research project feasible. The idea, though, of combining tensile and compression members in an actual structure was later evolved by Kenneth Snelson in the form of a tensegrity system and also provided the starting point for contemporary projects using pneumatic systems.

 

TRANSFORMABLE DESIGN FEATURES AT A GLANCE
PRINCIPLE
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
transergetic
ACTUAL
transergetic
TYPE
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
kinetic cables and rods
ACTUAL
kinetic cables and rods
SYSTEM
mechanical
ELEMENTS
Whole structure
Application Framework
Enclosed Space Open Space
Private Space Public Space
Passive Communication Active
Project Scale
Kinetic Elements Scale
Equipment
People
Intensity of Activity
Fluctuation of Intensity
Periodicity of Fluctuation
Design
New Design Intervention
Requires Support Self Supported
Simple Geometry Complex Geometry
Low Tech High Tech
Manual System Intelligent System
Surface Transformation
Volume Transformation
Morphological Variations
Modularity
Portability
Adaptability
Sustainability
Materials
Conventional Sophisticated
Elastic Rigid
Transparent Opaque
Warm Cold
Weight
Maintenance
Insulation
COST (estimation)

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Image source:

1: Nerdinger, W. (2005). Frei Otto. Complete Works. Basel; Boston; Berlin: Birkhäuser, 16.

Further Reading:

Nerdinger, W. (2005). Frei Otto. Complete Works.
Basel; Boston; Berlin: Birkhäuser Drew, P. (1976). Frei Otto. Form and Structure.
London: Crosby Lockwood Staples. Otto, F. (1973). Tensile Structures: Basic Concepts and Survey of Tensile Structures.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.