Spatial reciprocal frames and tensegrity. Prelude to form-finding



design, process, spatial reciprocal frames, tensegrity, form-finding


If the dualism between form and structure, which has appeared with the scientific and technological progress, has allowed to explore new frontiers in the construction field, the consequent disciplinary specializations have increased the separation of the knowledge related to the project. The architect and the engineer, who were the same figure in the past, have progressively begun to separate, distancing increasingly themselves. This essay investigates the potential of building systems based on the structural conceptualization and stability, referring to reciprocal frame structures and tensegrity systems. From a didactic point of view, they can help understand the importance of form and structure’s control, starting an absolute unity of process.


Architecture  |  Essays & Viewpoint

Spatial reciprocal frames and tensegrity. Prelude to form-finding

 pp. 9-22


Oscar Eugenio Bellini, Giuseppe Ruscica

Author(s) Biography

Oscar Eugenio Bellini, Associate Professor | Department of Architecture, Construction Engineering and Built Environment of the Polytechnic of Milan, Italy

Giuseppe Ruscica, Researcher | Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the University of Bergamo, Italy



Alexander, C. (1964), Notes on Synthesis of Form, Hardvard University Press, Cambridge-London.
Arup, O. N. (1942), “Science and World Planning”, in Tonks, N. (ed.) (2012), Ove Arup: Philosophy of Design, Prestel, München, pp. 19-26.
Benvenuto, E. (1999), “Intervento”, in Portoghesi, P. and Scarano, R. (eds), Il progetto di architettura: idee, scuole, tendenze all’alba del nuovo millennio, Newton & Compton, Roma, pp. 607-612.
Campioli, A. (2019), “Architettura e ingegneria: un rapporto dialogico e ambiguo”, in Marsaglia, V. and Paoletti, I. (eds), La cultura tecnologica e il progetto. Un ricordo di Anna Mangiarotti, SilvanaEditorile, Milano, pp. 67-82.
Chilton, J. C. and Choo, B. S. (1992), “Reciprocal frame long span structures”, in Srivastava, N. K., Sherbourne, A. N. and Roorda, J. (eds), Innovative Large Span Structures, vol. 2, Canadian Society of Civil Engineering, Toronto.
Chilton, J. C., Choo, B. S. and Popovic, O. (1995), “Reciprocal frames: past, present and future”, in Obrębski, J. B. (ed.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Lightweight Structures in Civil Engineering LSCE’95, Warsaw, Poland, 25-29 September 1995, Jan Obrębski Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Warsaw, pp. 26-29.
Contini, E. (1958), “La forma nella struttura”, in Architettura, n. 31, pp. 61-63.
Dal Co, F. (2018), “Tensegrity-ohel mo-ed. Norman Foster e Buckminster Fuller”, in Casabella, n. 889, pp. 98-115.
Di Carlo, B. (2008), “The wooden roofs of Leonardo and new structural research”, in Nexus Network Journal, vol. 10, issue 1, pp. 27-38.
Deswarte, S. and Lemoine, B. (1980), L’Architecture et les ingénieurs. Deux siècle de construction, Le Moniteur, Paris.
Einaudi, R. (2010), “Pier Luigi Nervi: lezioni romane. Lectures Notes, Roma 1959-60”, in Trentin, A. and Trombetti, T. (eds), La lezione di Pier Luigi Nervi, Bruno Mondadori, Milano-Torino.
Gioppo, L. and Redemagni, P. (2000), Il Codice atlantico di Leonardo da Vinci nell’edizione Hoepli 1894-1904 curata dall’Accademia dei Lincei, Anthelios, Milano.
Margolius, I. (2002), Architects+Engineers=Structures, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.
Marinoni, A. (ed.) (2000), Il codice atlantico della Biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano, vol. 2, Giunti, Milano.
Migayrou, F. (ed.) (2003), Architectures non standard, Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Monestiroli, A. (2005), “L’architettura degli ingegneri. Rapporto tra forma e costruzione nel progetto di architettura”, in Parametro, n. 255, pp. 66-79.
Morin, E. (1990), Introduction à la pensée complexe, Èdition du Seuil, Paris.
Motro, R. (2003), Tensegrity: structural systems for the future, Elsevier.
Pierini, O. S. (2016), “Torroja, Fisac, De La Sota and the Structural Conception of Space”, in FAmagazine, n. 35, pp. 39-47.
Nervi, P. L. (1955), La moderna tecnica costruttiva e i suoi aspetti architettonici, Verlecchi, Firenze.
Pizzigoni, A. (2008), “Le strutture spaziali reciproche”, in Collegio dei Tecnici della Industrializzazione Edilizia (ed.), Atti del XVII Congresso del C.T.E. (Collegio dei Tecnici della Industrializzazione Edilizia), Roma, 5-8 novembre 2008, Laser Copy Center, Milano, pp. 1009-1019.
Ponti, G. (1955), “Ingegneria e architettura”, in Domus, n. 313, pp. 1-3.
Popper, K. (1959), La logica della scoperta scientifica. Prefazione all’edizione inglese, Einaudi, Torino, p. XLII.
Popovic, O. (2008), Reciprocal Frame Architecture, Architectural Press, New York.
Popovic, O. (1996), Reciprocal frame structure, PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
Pugh, A. (1976), An Introduction to tensegrity, University of California Press.
Pugnale, A. and Sassone, M. (2014), “Structural reciprocity: critical overview and promising research/design issues”, in Nexus Network Journal, vol. 16, issue 1, pp. 9-35.
Ruscica, G., Micheletti, A. and Pizzigoni, A. (2010), “Tensegrity: from didactical tasks to innovative marketing proposals”, in Zhang, Q., Yang, L. and Hu, Y. (eds), Proceedings of IASS Symposium 2010: Spatial Structures. Temporary and Permanent, 8-12 November 2010, Shanghai, China, China Architecture & Building Press, Beijing, pp. 2405-2415.
Serlio, S. (1978, or. ed. 1566), I sette libri dell’architettura, Arnaldo Forni, Bologna.
Wang, B. B. (1996), “A new type of self-stressed equilibrium cable-strut system made of reciprocal prisms”, in International Journal of Space Structures, vol. 11, issue 4, pp. 357-362.
Wang, B. B. and Li, Y. Y. (2003), “Novel cable-strut grids made of prisms: Part I. Basic theory and design”, in Journal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, vol. 44, issue. 2, pp. 93-108.