Designer Creates Furniture Using Only Forces of Tension, No Nails Needed

Tensegrity lounge chair designed by robby cuthbert

Contemporary furniture designer Robby Cuthbert mixes architectural principles and organic forms in his sculptural pieces. Coffee tables, lamps, shelves, and chairs are all carefully crafted with wood and steel cables based on principles of tensegrity (or tension integrity). The results are pieces of light and airy modern furniture.

And just what is tensegrity? A term coined by famed American architect Buckminster Fuller, tensegrity structures rely on an overall balance of tension to create stability. Think of a geodesic dome—light and delicate in appearance, it relies on the tension between interlocking parts for its architectural strength.

Using this theory, the Palo Alto-based furniture designer doesn't rely on glue, screws, and nails to hold together his furniture. Instead, the pieces are engineered to perfection, with tension balanced in the steel cables or cantilevered to a single point. With each tensegrity structure representing a mixture of functional furniture and elegant artwork, it's no wonder that Cuthbert studied studio art with an attraction toward architecture and sculpture.

“I generate architectural and organic forms, often with a hint of the fantastical or whimsical, that examine the role of tension in the storing and release of energy,” Cuthbert shares. “With wood and wire as my primary materials, I have played with the suggestion of pent up energy held in check by opposing forces. Each piece maintains a state of potential energy that, if released, would result in a transformation of the work.”

Cuthbert's cutting-edge furniture is available via his website, and he is also available for commission work.

This contemporary furniture uses tension—not screws or nails—to hold its structure.

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Hear the designer discuss his work and the principles of tension based furniture design.

Robby Cuthbert: Website | Facebook 

All images via Robby Cuthbert Design.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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