Category Archives: The Netherlands

Snelson’s Neddle Towers

Needle Tower II (1969)
The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kenneth Snelson (born June 29, 1927) is a contemporary sculptor who arranges rigid and flexible components to compose his sculptures combining tension and structural integrity. This Neddle Tower II (1969) is 30 meters high and it’s interesting here because of this picture:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Is a mathematical picture or not? The sculpture is in the garden of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo.

LocationKröller-Müller Museum of Otterlo (map)

There is another Neddle Tower (1968) beside Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.:

Source: Street View

Source: Street View

According to the Mathematical Tourist (by Ivars Peterson):

Snelson discovered the underlying principle for such structures in 1948, advocating the term “floating compression” to describe the balance between tension and compression and, in his sculptures, between flexible cables and rigid tubes. R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) coined the word “tensegrity” (combining “tension” and “integrity”) for the same idea, and his term stuck. Snelson refers to weaving as the “mother of tensegrity.”

Snelson defines “tensegrity” as follows: “Tensegrity describes a closed structural system composed of a set of three or more elongate compression struts within a network of tension tendons, the combined parts mutually supportive in such a way that the struts do not touch one another, but press outwardly against nodal points in the tension network to form a firm, triangulated, prestressed, tension and compression unit.”
Snelson’s Needle Tower delivers a wonderful geometrical surprise when you venture underneath and look up to see a striking pattern of six-pointed stars.

This pattern arises naturally out of the requirement that each layer of a tensegrity structure consist of three compression elements (tubes). The sets of three alternate, giving the impression of a six-pointed star as you look up the tower. Snelson’s sculptures often show this kind of symmetry.

The elegance of Snelson’s tower suggests its use as an aesthetic alternative to conventional communications towers. But tensegrity structures are fairly elastic and flexible. They sway in the wind, which may not be ideal for the antennas and dishes that would top such structures.

Location: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (map)

The Counter-Compositions

I’ve been reading about Theo van Doesburg and his art is definitely mathematical! Enjoy some of his paintings:

Counter-Composition V (1924) in Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam (map)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Counter-Composition VI (1925) in the Tate Modern of London (map)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Counter-Composition VII-The three graces (1917) in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum of St. Louis (map)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Counter-Composition X (1924) in Kröller-Müller Museum of Otterlo (map)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Counter-Composition XIII (1925-1926) in Peggy Guggenheim Collection of Venice (map)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Counter-Composition XIV (1925) in the Fundacion Villanueva of Venezuela

Source: ARS

Counter-Composition XV (1925) in the Muzeum Sztuki of Lodz (map)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I think that this post won’t be the last about Van Doesburg!

The Cubic Houses

Piet Blom’s Cubic Houses (Rotterdam)
Font: Wikimedia Commons

The Cubic Houses (or Kubuswonig) are one of the symbols of Rotterdam. Their architect was Piet Blom (1934-1999) whose first drafts originate from 1973-1974. Three testhouses were built in Helmond in 1975 and another eighteen were built around a cultural center there in 1977:

Cubic Houses (Helmond)
Photography by Geert C. Smulders at nl.wikipedia

According to the official web page, the first drafts of the Rotterdam version were presented in 1978. The construction of the houses started in March 1982 due to financial problems and they were completed in 1984. The first presentation showed 74 cubic houses and a cultural centre next to them but the definitive version accommodated only 38 houses but also a school, shopping centres and a tower of appartaments. All the houses were sold before they were finished and are inhabited since 1984. Blom tried to create a forest by each cube representing an abstract tree. Each cube stands along its diagonal and it’s split into three levels: the lower one contains the living area, the middle level contains the sleeping area and a bathroom and the top level is used as either a living space or a bedroom.

Location: Cubic Houses at Rotterdam (map)