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THINKING A TEXTILE ARCHITECTURE

not how we want it to look” [5]. Addington presents the departure from a formalist and essentially autonomous understanding of architectural production to one that is linked intrinsically to the material, the active and the present. If architectural culture is predominantly situated within the abstracted place of representation, configuring its drawings in respect to a model of notation and interpretation, this new focus posits design as always connected to a deep understanding of materiality and behaviour.

A new technological foundation: scaling textile principles In architecture textiles has provided a metaphor by which a new generation of structures are understood. Where modern building structures separate the compressive logic of the wall from the tensile logic of roof, a new generation of projects explores the building membrane as a wrapping skin. In projects such as OMA’s Seattle Public Library [6], Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada Shop, Tokyo [7] and Foster’s British Museum [8], the building membrane is developed as a unified mesh enveloping the built environment. Here, the idea of the light weight and self-supporting curtain wall, the modernist separation of façade and structure, is constructed as a shaped skin designed to create complex enclosures while simultaneously being structurally performing. Whereas the material might still be steel and glass and the joinery bolted and welded, these buildings suggest an architectural thinking of textile membranes as alternatives to traditional structural hierarchies. As explored by Beesley and Hanna in their text “Lighter: a transformed architecture”, textiles in architecture provides a new model by which the rigid orders of primary, secondary and tertiary structures are replaced by interdependent structures that perform together: “Instead of fixed, rigid connections based on compression, textile structures use tension. The binding of one fibre to the next is achieved through the tension exerted by the immediately adjacent fibres. Rather than relying on support from the previous, stronger member, the system is circular, holding itself in exquisite balance” [9].

Foster`s Swizz Re building: separation of facade and structure OMA Seattle library: the membrane is developed as a wrapping skin

These interdependent friction based structures call upon a textile logic for thinking structural principals. As such, they foreground the question of scale. Where textile principles are well understood at the scale of traditional fabrics, the question remains how to suggest these at scales that engage the built environment. In architecture and engineering there are precedents for this thinking. In the late 19th century the Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov developed light metal lattice structures as radio- and water towers. These structures diagonally spin thin metal slats into hyperboloid drums pushed out by horizontal circular members. Each crossing of slats is connected thereby creating stiffness. The structures are essentially self-bracing, pressing them selves into tension [10]. The idea of woven structures at architectural scale is also exemplified in the geodetic airframes constructed in the early 1930s. Here, wooden slats [11] or steel members [12] are woven together bracing the slats against each other spinning the shape together along the fuselage. As in the work of Shukhov, the weave is held in place by the fixing of each of the crossing slats and pressed out by evenly spaced rigid rings. The structures proved a light weight development of stressed skin constructions. In effect balancing tension against compression, these load distributing networks proved an exceptional prevention of torsion in the fuselage and therefore buckling of the skin.

Shukhov tower: in the radio tower Sabolovka from 1919, 6 hyperboloid structures are mounted on top of each other creating a 150 m high tower Shukhov’s pumping station in Groznyj

A second class of load distributing networks is the gridshell. Shukhov’s early steel gridshell roofs for projects such as the pumping station in Groznyj or the All Russian Exhibition in Niznij Novgorod in 1895 developed the technique using steel slats [13]. Here, each member 13

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Book: Textile Logic for a soft space  
Book: Textile Logic for a soft space  

The book "Textile Logic for a soft space", by Mette Ramsgaard Thomse (CITA) and Karin Bech (CITA).

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