Vision and Specifications:
My vision for this project was to upcycle discarded bike wheels into a functional and aesthetically pleasing tensegrity structure that could also be utilized as a coffee table by adding a glass top. I developed the specifications for its function and form by choosing the tensegrity structure after realizing that the spokes of the bike wheel are purely tensile elements, and I could utilize them as is for the structure. The key specification that I self-imposed was that I would utilize only the elements from the bike wheel for the structure, with minimal use of fasteners, and find a glass top designated to be scrapped. The only dimensional specifications were that the height of the structure should be around 15 to 25inches which is the height range of a normal coffee table and side table. The aesthetic vision was industrial style, modern, and all matte black. Here are a few initial sketches during the ideation phase for the form of the sculpture.
My aesthetic is inspired by the industrial and modern styles, both of which prominently emerged by late 19th and early 20th century, and emphasizes the use of raw materials, such as steel, bricks, wood, and glass. The characteristics that these could be defined as minimalism, simplicity, functionality, with emphasis of clean lines, simple shapes, lack of ornamentation, and the use of neutral colors like white, black, and grey. In my project, I wanted to showcase the industrial flair by utilizing the distinct cross-sectional contour of matte black bike rims and their highlighted interconnection with shiny steel spokes.
I started by removing the tires, tubes, hubs and spokes from the four bike wheels, sorting the 144 spokes to use them later to bind all the rims together.
I intersected two rims by cutting one, passing through the other, and tentatively rejoining the cut using zip ties and super glue. Then, I started joining the two rims in an almost perpendicular position using the spokes. I added the third rim at the bottom and the fourth rim at the top, similarly joining them with the spokes. The structure was a little finicky, unstable, and moving very easily with a little force. The spokes needed to be tightened further to add stability so that the structure could bear the weight of a glass top and other objects due to the objective of making this structure into a functional coffee table. The base Tensegrity sculpture was now complete.
To add the functionality of the table, a few additions were left. I scoured secondhand marketplaces like thrift stores, offerup, and facebook marketplace. I was able to find a discarded table that had broken legs and a round glass top of 26inches which would be an almost exact fit to the bike rim diameter. I added the stubs from the discarded table onto the bottom rim, fastening it with zip ties after a little modifications with an exacto knife. Due to the tightening of the spokes, the structure became a little distorted and the top rim was not exactly flat to the ground, due to this, the stubs are added at asymmetrical positions to compensate this effect and make the glass top flat for the table. The flatness was measured using a phone app and a ball, to see if it rolls.
To support the glass top, I did not want to just keep the glass top onto the bare metal rim and wanted a rubber support. I figured one of the bike wheel’s tubes would be a good idea for this purpose. I partially inflated a wheel tube and fastened it to the top rim with zip ties again, and added the glass top on the structures. The tensegrity table is now almost complete, only part left is to paint the rims matte black.
Description of the Artifact:
The final artifact is a functional coffee table made from upcycled bike wheel parts and a glass top dedicated to be discarded. The tensegrity structure is created from two intersecting circular elements with two similar elements at the top and bottom, forming a modern sculpture. The rims of the structure are black, and the highlighting steel spokes add an industrial flair. The total height is 16inches with the base of the structure being supported by stubs, and the top is a round glass adding functionality as a coffee table.
The artistic goal was to create a industrial-modern sculpture that also serve as a functional utility. The final artifact achieved the artistic goal by showcasing the industrial flair and minimalistic aesthetics. However, I haven’t painted it matte black yet which would add on to the “modern” aesthetic by making it more uniform and appealing, and currently the single steel rim and steel spokes give a more “industrial” look to it. I also wanted it to be perfectly symmetrical which it is not currently due to the addition of extra spokes at asymmetrical positions to make it more rigid and stable. The structure also became slightly distorted after being tightened which contributed to the asymmetry a little.
The next step is to enjoy using the coffee table and showcase it in my living room. If needed, I will paint it matte black as per my original vision, but I won’t add or modify anything related to the functionality. I will keep the artifact and use it as an inspiration for future projects.