My new and original plant support system was inspired by Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the inventor of the geodesic dome. The key feature of the SFT system is its variability, which is made easy with my deceptively simple universal connector.
The structural shapes of the SFT are modelled on molecules. Why look at molecules? – Nature is always the sublime teacher of structural economy.
Lawrence Bragg pioneered in 1912 the x-ray diffraction technique to ‘see’ the three-dimensional arrangement of individual atoms in crystals. The conjecture by a few scientists that graphite-like sheets (hexagonal lattices) could be bent into geodesic structures was indeed confirmed. These carbon-cage molecules, which form very stable structures, are referred to as ‘fullerenes’ in honour of Buckminster Fuller who first explored and applied these geodesic structures in his architectural designs.
A geodesic is the shortest curve between two points on a curved surfaces laying wholly on the surface. We find geodesic patterns in very different things and very different orders of magnitude and in many disguises. They are present in:
- Double helix of DNA
- Protein shells of viruses
- Pollen grains
- Skeletons of various tiny marine organisms
- Shapes of various species of fungi
- Compound eyes in various species of insects
- Conical helices in various species of shells and horns of animals
- Muscular fibres, for example the circular and longitudinal muscles of the mammalian heart
- Helical twists in many climbing plants
Geodesic space frame structures are efficient regardless of scale.
What is a space frame? – A three-dimensional frame, usually triangulated in all directions, composed of struts and ties interconnected so that they all share in carrying any load.
Trellises are used as obelisks, screens, arches, arbours and pergolas. Trellises have a particular relevance to today’s smaller gardens and ‘gardens in the sky‘. Obelisks and arches can be used to frame a view, define an entrance or path. Obelisks can give instant height to a border. An arbour can partly hide a sitting area.
Trellised walks are surely among the most delightful features in the garden. Their use goes back to antiquity. Imaginative trellises can also be used as sculptures in the garden. Generally, trellises have a rustic appearance and are heavy in every sense, physically and aesthetically. The structural form of 21st century trellises should be minimal, lightweight and almost invisible!
My SFT system, analogous to a Meccano kit, can be used in a new garden project and also to rejuvenate an existing area of the garden. A unique feature of my SFT system is that individual struts can be threaded through the branches of an established plant and assembled into a very strong and unobtrusive trellis.
My space frame trellises are inexpensive to make as they use standard off the peg materials. They can be fabricated by any blacksmith or any DIY enthusiast.