Strange bedfellows




“The beauty of the weaving metaphor is that each move made by the weaver keeps the whole fabric in view, much like the ruling of a state. For Plato, the aim of state making is justice, which means, in effect, weaving together the various social virtues without allowing one more than the other to dominate.”

— Arthur Danto

The thesis probes textile in architecture through both its materiality and its logic of assembly. The experiment intends to initiate an intimate relationship between body and the built environment through textile. 

The thesis first engages in the pliable and ephemeral materiality of textile. The softness of textile encourages bodily movements, and inviting inhabitants to configure their own surroundings. In contrast to the concrete geometric order imposed on us, textile really allows the built environment to be manipulated, creating fluid boundaries, and allowing varying degrees of contact. For centuries, the dominant ideal of architecture is the solid, resistant, and inflexible entity, having an enduring order upon the living scenarios around it. Textile as a building material creates spaces for the ephemeral, using its softness and temporality to incorporate the transient spatial needs. 

Beyond the materiality of textile, the thesis investigates the construction logic of weaving as an organizing system that interlocks parts into a larger entity. Threads are connected together without joinery or adhesive, but a process of packing independent lines. Unlike knitting which involves continuous looping of yarn, weaving consists of a stack of individually piled elements. Each segment can be adjusted and removed, the fabric stills hold together. While performing independently, the integrity of weaving comes collectively, rooted in the tightly packed lines. The weaving logic requires the aggregation and density of small parts for the fabric to hold together. 

The thesis hopes to take on the part to whole logic that is specific to weaving and perform it onto built space across scale. The concept of spatial weave that is beyond the softness of the material is the essential.

The current discussion of textile architecture is grounded in this Semperian model. Beyond the prehistoric and primitive hut model of textile architecture, the use of textile is not only a continuous one throughout history but also an increasing contemporary one, echoing the growing need for mobility in contemporary culture.

Textile as building material: the pliable and ephemeral materiality
Weaving as metaphor: the construction logic of woven fabric
The thesis uses the program artist residency as a testing ground.

 The program echoes a monastery model in a contemporary sense. It sites in Lambertville, NJ, on a parcel of land between Delaware river and the canal. The building uses cross laminated timber as its structural frame. It reflects the logic of weaving both in cross-laminate material itself, at the same time,  in the way the structural frames interlock on a larger scale.

The building invites vehicular and pedestrian circulation from two ends.

The ground level, while lifted, is constantly shaping and shaped by the interwoven circulation around the site.The space in between the workshop and the residence side of the building is concentrated with a range of collective uses. 

Envelope mediates boundaries, between interior and exterior, and between different spatial needs within.

 It is an architectural apparatus that bridges a range of living conditions. The envelope situates between the rigidity of building framework and the free floating furniture. and brings a variety of time-span into the built space.

The idea of Envelope collapse with the individually packed logic of weaving.

 Each part of the enveloping system can be rearranged, adjusted or removed independently, bringing a greater degree of flexibility to the bodily needs. While performing independently, it needs a collective mass to work together. The aggregation of envelopes penetrating the grid-ness of the structural frame.  Thus, the scenarios of the built space is not only defined by the rigid components, but also, more importantly, configured by the movable and flexible screens.

The textile material and the weaving logic provokes movement. It creates space that is simultaneously an inside and outside. The envelope can reveal and conceal, be stretched to form a temporary enclosure, and be folded to create layers.

The living environment is constructed from a smaller scale, the elements that formulate the living space is indeed an integral part of the architecture. Textile here performs at different scales, from forming a room, enclosing a large area, to acting as small joineries for interior equipments.

Concurrent with the design that is specific to the artist residence as a test ground, these small-scale equipment are able to live elsewhere, opening up the site and program specific design to an aggregative collection that can have broader applications. It also foregrounds the weaving as metaphor, that something made of the hard material is still subjected to the same logic, creating flexibility beyond the soft materials.

The sectional view cut through the long side of the buildings is compiled by a range of small-scale works. While they are organized with a designated programmatic use, the boundaries between all of these uses remain flexible and constantly changing at different speeds. This collection of the interior equipment interplays with the collective needs and individual needs of space. The event of the built space unfolds into a dynamic correlation with the elements that shapes them.

The living scenarios are built from fragments, a small-scale design that grows outwards, at the same time, concerning their assemblies. The paintings utilize colors to play with spatial relations, suggesting various materialities without specifically assigning them. Painting allows the potential to explore potentials that live outside the conventions of architectural drawing.

The part to whole weaving logic is not only the subject matter of the thesis,  but also the making process of the thesis. The tactility comes with engaging different mediums, the painting, the model, the colored line drawings. The Framework disappears and becomes the accumulation of the details and parts. 

Exterior scenarios

 Interior scenarios

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Ig: @tiantianll