Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Flextegrity Story

Glenn and Sam with Flextegrity Hexagon

Working with the spring-connected icosahedrons version of Flextegrity takes a real craftsman, which Glenn is, with special tools, which Glenn made, by modifying other tools.

The project:  take what had been a spiral (we called it the "e"), shown in the book, and morph it into a hexagon, for use as a table for example.  It turned out six-frequency.  The tapered base is not as regular (not a requirement).

Just after Sam left in his vehicle with the completed work, some old friends showed up, one of whom had been in the Philippines with me, in high school, when Sam would have been there too, with Bucky Fuller.

Sam knew the Applewhites from growing up in DC, and through that connection got to accompany Fuller as his sidekick and traveling companion, when invited as guests of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Imelda took them shoe shopping, with a motorcade.  She and her husband lived in a palace.  Bucky often mentioned how he'd visited with many kings and queens over the years.  They were one of those ruling couples.

As best as I've been able to piece it together, this visit occurred in 1972, but I stand ready to be corrected (I was Class of 1976 at the International School, then went to Princeton in New Jersey).

Flextegrity has much in common with tensegrity, and indeed Sam had done some sculptures in this emerging space, made famous by Kenneth Snelson who was bar none the best at it, having gotten the ball rolling at Black Mountain College, North Carolina.

Fuller was at Black Mountain contemporaneously, furiously working on his Synergetics, as it would later become known.  His first dome prototype was a failure, though Fuller was undaunted and redeemed himself the following year with a working model.  He managed to secure a patent. 

Kenneth had made tensegrity sculptures that summer, back in Pendleton, Oregon, his home town, and these excited Fuller greatly when he saw them, inspiring him to make similar works, and leading to contested paternity claims regarding who's brainchild tensegrity really was.

Some of those Black Mountain alumni came out to Oregon later, and several of them worked at Caitlin Gabel, a local private school.  I forget how that worked exactly.  I learned of this history when invited to a Thanksgiving Gathering they had at the coast every year, at Camp Westwind.

I recall joining this gathering again later with my wife Dawn and her daughter from a previous marriage, Alexia.  I don't recall if Tara ever joined us there.

Tara later got to meet with Kenneth Snelson when we took a brief trip to New York.  I had served as Kenneth's first webmaster, hosting pages at my site, in the very early days of the Web. I was BFI's first web master too.

The Catlin Gabel campus has or a had a big tensegrity made of logs and chains out near the edge of its property, visible from the adjacent St. Vincent's Hospital, where I worked as a consultant for many years.

I don't think Sam was eager to get caught up in contested waters.  In using the word Flextegrity he was branding something perhaps.  He wasn't looking to make art, so much as develop a new building strategy.

I've peppered these blogs with accounts of Sam's adventures in this regard.  Sam did get to meet with Kenneth in New York, as did my friends Julian Voss-Andreae and E.J. Applewhite.