Kenneth Snelson

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Kenneth Snelson
Kenneth Snelson Needle Tower.JPG
Needle Tower II by Kenneth Snelson (1969) at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Netherlands
Born (1927-06-29) June 29, 1927 (age 89)
Pendleton, Oregon
Nationality American
Education University of Oregon
Black Mountain College
Fernand Léger in Paris.
Known for Sculpture, Photography

Kenneth Snelson (born June 29, 1927) is an American contemporary sculptor and photographer. His sculptural works are composed of flexible and rigid components arranged according to the idea of 'tensegrity'. Snelson prefers the descriptive term floating compression.

Snelson asserts his former professor Buckminster Fuller took credit for Snelson's discovery of the concept that Fuller named tensegrity. Fuller gave the idea its name, combining 'tension' and 'structural integrity.' The height and strength of Snelson's sculptures, which are often delicate in appearance, depend on the tension between rigid pipes and flexible cables.


Snelson was born in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1927. He studied at the University of Oregon in Eugene, at the Black Mountain College,[1] and with Fernand Léger in Paris. His sculpture and photography have been exhibited at over 25 one-man shows in galleries around the world including the structurally seminal Park Place Gallery in New York in the 1960s. Snelson has also done research on the shape of the atom. Snelson continues to work in his SoHo studio, occasionally collaborating with animator Jonathan Monaghan.[2] He lives in New York City with his wife, Katherine.

He holds five United States patents: #3,169,611: Discontinuous Compression Structures, February, 1965; #3,276,148: Model for Atomic Forms, October, 1966; #4,099,339: Model for Atomic Forms, July, 1978; and #6,017,220: Magnetic Geometric Building System; and most recently, #6,739,937: Space Frame Structure Made by 3-D Weaving of Rod Members, May 25, 2004.

Snelson was a founding member of ConStruct, the artist-owned gallery that promoted and organized large-scale sculpture exhibitions throughout the United States. Other founding members include Mark di Suvero, John Raymond Henry, Lyman Kipp and Charles Ginnever.

Honours and awards[edit]

Sculptures in public collections and public spaces[edit]

United States[edit]



  • City Boots, 1968, J. Patrick Lannon Foundation, Los Angeles
  • Mozart I, 1982, Stanford University, Palo Alto

District of Columbia[edit]


  • Newport, 1968, M. Margulies, Coconut Grove


  • Four Module Piece, 1968, Terrell Mill Park, Iowa City


  • Virlane Tower, 1981, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA, New Orleans




  • Indexer II, 2001, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • B-Tree II, 2005, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids


  • Triple Crown, 1991, Hallmark, Inc. Kansas City


New York[edit]

New Jersey[edit]

  • Northwood II, 1970, Compton Quad, Graduate College, Princeton, Mercer

North Carolina[edit]






  • Northwood, 1969, Northwood Institute, Cedar Hills


  • "Hard Wired", Bennington (College)



  • Soft Landing, 1975–77, Berlin Nationalgalerie, Berlin
  • Avenue K, 1968, City of Hannover

The Netherlands[edit]

  • Easy-K, 1970, Sonsbeek ‘70, Arnhem
  • Needle Tower II, 1969, Kröller Müller Museum, Otterlo


  • Osaka, 1970, Japan Iron & Steel Federation, Kobe
  • T-Zone Flight, 1995, JT Building, Toranomon, Tokyo
  • Landing, 1970, Wakayama Prefecture Museum, Wakayama

Unknown Location[edit]

  • Audrey I, 1966, Private Collection
  • Audrey II, 1966, Private Collection
  • Equilateral Quivering Tower, 1973–92
  • Tri-Core Column, 1974
  • Wing I, 1992; Ed. 4, Private collection
  • Rainbow Arch, 2001
  • Dragon, 2000–03


  1. ^
  2. ^ 38th Rotterdam Film Festival Shorts Program
  3. ^ "Kenneth Snelson Untitled Maquette, 1975". Kenneth Snelson Untitled Maquette, 1975. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  4. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]