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a r e s e a r c h project into textile logic for a soft space

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the exhibition digital.material, oslo 2010

Thaw a research project into textile logic for a soft space by Mette Ramsgard Thomsen and Karin Bech

Thaw investigates how to use textile concepts of tension and friction for tectonic structures of architectural scale. As a wall membrane, Thaw explores the making of a woven structure made of ash slats braced together by steel joints. Where most architectural structures work through principles of compression, Thaw is a tensile structure. As such Thaw is soft: it moves the forces through its woven field though frictive interconnectivity. Exploring the ideal of soft constructions, Thaw is animated. A pulley system draws Thaw in at a pulsing rhythm. The structure expands and contracts, inhales and exhales, resonating with its own material performance.

A second skin lines the structure. As a pleated manifold the membrane is tied to the surface responding to the movement and incorporating its rhythm. Thaw is designed through a disposition of parametric interrelationships. Much like a textile pattern, Thaw is devised through the mapping of tensile relationships. Thaw asks: - How can textile principles suggest new ways of thinking structure at architectural scale? - If structure becomes soft how can the integration of movement allow us to suggest ways of embedding responsiveness and adaptability? - How would it be to live in a soft space?

Thaw was exhibited as part of the digital.material exhibition at R.O.M Gallery for Art and Architecture, Oslo in May 2010. The exhibition was kindly supported by the Nordic Culture Foundation. Thaw was further supported through the collaboration with Behnam Pourdeyhimi, NC State University College of Textiles. Thank you also to Michael Hensel, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, and Toni Osterlund, LundenOsterlund for their inspiring constribution to the research seminar.

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parametric setup allowing for multiple iterations and continual adjustments

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skin and structure: the tensile weave

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designing for material performance: incorporating the bending of wood into digital design

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parametric design environment

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development process and construction

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automated fabrication drawings 0

























developing bespoke joints that set out the geometry of the construction

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the skin is developed as a bespoke non woven made by North Carolina State University, College of Textiles. The material is made to be stiff and thick allowing the pleats to be self bearing. The material is a blend of polyester and co-polyester. The co-polyester melts at a lower temperature and “binds� the fibers together. The structure was made by carding crosslapping followed by needle punching and then passed through the over to partially melt some of the co-polyester. We used a very special experimental needle that densifies the web to give it density and feel like the foam you had. The web is ~ 300 g/square meter.

detailing the patterns for the textile skin

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digital.material: seminar Monday April 26th 2010


As part of the exhibition we held a open seminar reflecting on digital practice in architecture. The aim for the seminar was to discuss the further framework of the research exhibition.

Michael Hensel Prof. Michael U. Hensel [Dipl. Ing. Grad Dipl Des AA] (born 1965, Celle, Germany) is an architect, researcher, educator and writer. He is a founding member of OCEAN (1994) and founding chairman of the OCEAN Design Research Association (2008) where he currently serves as a board member and secretary. He is currently Professor for Research by Design at AHO – The Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway. Previously he taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (1993 to 2009), where he developed the curriculum for and co-directed the Emergent Technologies and Design Program (2001 to 2009). He held visiting professorships and innovation fellowships and taught and lectured in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia. His research interests and efforts include formulating the theoretical and methodological framework for Performance-oriented Architecture and developing a biological paradigm for design and sustainability of the built environment.

Seminar topic: Digital media is often seen as a way to abstract the world. But in design and fabrication digital tools allow for a new closeness between design and making. As manufacturing becomes increasingly computer controlled and as better and more solid interfaces between the design space and fabrication mature, a more integrated working practice arises. To enter into this practice, and to make use of its knowledge sharing and its ability to create new more sustainable building practice that lie outside the mass produced and the standardised, it is necessary to integrate this new practice into architectural thinking, designing and making. digital.material explores a new material nearness into our practice. Through this seminar we ask: how do we engage with this material sense, how can better crafts knowledge challenge our design paradigms and what happens when the architect become tool builder defining individualised design tools for non standardised making. CITA 2010

Toni Österlund Toni Österlund is a Finnish architect working with the possibilities of digital fabrication and algorithmic/parametric design methods. He is a partner in a small, yet innovative architecture office Lundén Österlund architects with special interests in digital design strategies, the use of timber through computerized fabrication and implementing natural processes in architecture. He has written articles on publications and collaborated with the University of Oulu, Department of Architecture by organizing workshops for students on algorithmic design methods. He was part in setting up an international seminar, exhibition and publication, called “GENERATE – from algorithm to structure”, which displayed works and experiments on algorithmic structures. He is currently starting his Ph.D. studies in University of Oulu, Department of Architecture.

Mette Ramsgard Thomsen Mette Ramsgard Thomsen is an architect working with digital technologies. Her research centres on the relationship between crafts and technology framed through “Digital Crafting� as way of questioning how computation, code and fabrication challenge architectural thinking and material practices. Her work is practice lead and through projects such as Slow Furl, Strange Metabolisms, Vivisection and Sea Unsea she investigates the design and realisation of a behavioural space. Mette is Associate Professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, where she heads the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture [CITA]. She has researched and taught at the Bartlett School of Architecture, the Department of Computer Science, University College London and at University of Brighton, School of Architecture and Design.

Martin Tamke Martin Tamke, is Associate Professor at the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA) at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen he is pursuing a design led research on the interface and implications of computational design and its materialization.?Being interested in the making as well as the reflection on new strategies in architectural design he worked after graduation at the Institute of Theory and Design in Architecture (ige) at TU Braunschweig in 2003, where he got in contact with scientific research in interdisciplinary projects, mainly with Computer Science. Based on a deep understanding of architectural design and computational techniques he developed his practice between the speculative and the realization of architecture. In the recent years his practice took place in collaborative projects in different scales: from exhibition pieces, competitions and interiors, as the realization of a virtual news studio for the television company RTL to architectural projects. A 70m organic shaped infrastructural hub is currently under construction in Hamburg.

Phil Ayres Phil Ayres is an architect and educator. He recently joined the ranks at CITA (Centre for Information Technology and Architecture, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen) after a decade of teaching and research at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, and completing a PhD in Denmark at the Aarhus School. As a self-taught computer programmer, skilled machinist and maker, his work searches to construct complementary potentials between the worlds of the digital and the analogue. His teaching and research allow him to bridge the realms of representation, fabrication and interaction, and feed into his interest of developing exploratory design techniques that are often computer mediated, but always lead to physical output. Much of this work has been published internationally.

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for further information and projects please see

Booklet: Thaw (2010)  

Thaw investigates how to use textile concepts of tension and friction for tectonic structures of architectural scale. As a wall membrane, Th...

Booklet: Thaw (2010)  

Thaw investigates how to use textile concepts of tension and friction for tectonic structures of architectural scale. As a wall membrane, Th...