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Architecture and Sewing

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Barnstone/Ascher Barnstone: Studio, Rossland BC, 2001

Architecture and sewing Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Robert Barnstone, guest editors

On Site review issue 8 2002 publisher The Association for Non-Profit Architectural Fieldwork (Alberta) guest editors Deborah Asher Barnstone Robert Barnstone editor Stephanie White contributors Kevin Alter Deborah Asher Barnstone Jill Bambury Robert Barnstone Philip Beesley Hansy Luz Better Sarah Bonnemaison Tali Bucher Edward Cullinen Architects Al Donnell Ward Eagen Mitchell Hall Filiz Klassen Andrew King


to issue 8, Architecture and Sewing. Our guest editors are Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Robert Barnstone, who wrote in On|Site 5 about their portable dining room, called a sukkah. for harvest workers in Indiana. It was an elegant structure made of many hundreds of thin wood strips nailed to make a series of shifting screens, panels and ribs. More of their work can be seen here, in this issue – all with the same sensibility where thinness, fragility and provisionality combine to made robust structures.

Clodagh Latimer Christine Macy Christine Maile Office dA Tonkao Panin Dean Russell Angela Silver Tom Strickland Shawn van Sluys Barbara Todd Martha Townsend Mark West Stephanie White

We encourage you to send us your comments on this issue, and to continue to send us news of interesting work in your region that we can include in future issues.

translations Nathan Golden, ACSA design & production Black Dog Running Syntax Media Services printer Makeda Press, Calgary

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comments, ideas, proposals GST Registration No 89648 5117 RT0001 Canada Post Agreement No 40042630 ISSN 1481-8280 copyright On Site Review and Field Notes Press ALL RIGHTS RESERVED The use of any part of this publication reproduced, trans-mitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of copyright law, Chapter C-30, R S C 1988.

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Steel mesh veils a crumbling cliff face on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Golden, BC.


On Site review


real places 1 las vegas

real places 2 near rimouski, quebec

Al Donnell


he mechanical palm tree: actually a mast for cell phone transmission. I’ve only seen one so far, but I’m sure they’re the wave of the future. No need for water — which is in increasingly short supply here — and no danger of freezing. though the way things have been going, globalwarming-wise, this is a small worry.  Al Donnell is an architect exiled to Las Vegas through every fault of his own.

Une lettre de Las Vegas : Le palmier mécanique : il s’agit en fait d’un mât servant aux transmissions de téléphones cellulaires. Je n’en ai vu qu’un seul jusqu’à présent, mais je suis certaine qu’il s’agit de la vague de l’avenir. Aucun besoin d’eau – qui est de plus en plus une pénurie par ici – et 2

On Site review

aucun risque de gel. Bien que, la façon dont les choses vont, du point de vue du réchauffement de la planète, il s’agit là d’une bien petite inquiétude.

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Photographed while driving the long way to Halifax, in April of 2001. Can anyone tell us who did this?


Call for Articles: Issue 9


On the Surface

What you see is what you get: What you get is not what you see. The question at hand explores the power of architectural surface to shape and reshape the identities of both architecture and place. How architecture as it appears in direct experience —be it in its immediacy as a given texture or in its remoteness as an image— gives us references and clues to the work of architecture itself and of the larger social, cultural and natural framework of its location. This two-way movement towards an inner and outer horizon endows architectural surface with the capacity to generate meaning —or ideology— and locates it in the crucial juncture by which it seems capable of transcending its own superficiality in many possible directions. This inquiry into the depth of architectural Surface (Skin-Covering-Dressing-Cladding) touches upon its visible and non-visible manifestations, i.e. upon its practical, material, constructional, and representational aspects. Addressing various examples and innovative ways of thinking and building architectural surface in contemporary practice, the proposed subjects may include but not be limited to the relation between Surface and— materials construction production transformation weathering appropriation meaning (cultural, social, economic) form occupation space location — the dialogue between architectural surface and its surroundings image —the representation of architectural images


introduction Deborah Asher Barnstone and Robert Barnstone introduce the conjunction of architecture and sewing.


real places Las Vegas: Al Donnel finds the ultimate 21st century tree. Rimouski: as seen from the highway.

deborah ascher barnstone

robert barnstone

6 7 9 dean russell

kevin alter christine macy and sarah bonnemaision

14 17 18 34 36 42 43

letters Shawn van Sluys revisits Lethbridge Modernism. Dean Russell writes from Edmonton. projects Quilting with glass, cedar and fir. Robert Barnstone discusses his studio in Rossland, BC. Hansy Luz Better looks at economy, quality and fit: sewing in the work of Office dA. The Lazlo Files, Harvard Graduate School of Design. Ed Cullinen’s Weald and Downland Museum Gridshell. The Hardouin House in Austin, Texas by Kevin Alter. Arachne: a myth for our times, informs the work of Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy. Like Nothing — the drawing investigations of Martha Townsend. Adam’s Boat — Barbara Todd traces images of boats and quilts.

andrew king

work in progress 31 Andrew King and Angela Silver design The Thread House in Calgary, Alberta mark west 39 Sheer Equilibrium: Mark West clarifies a few points. 48 Filiz Klassen introduces Pro-fusion: an online design forum. So, who needs to live in Toronto?

filiz klassen

landscape 12 Philip Beesely shows two installations in Nova Scotia. 28 Sewing the landscape. Christine Maile finds small, wild christine maile, undercover gardens in the streets of New York.

tonkao panin tom strickland

Send ideas immediately to Tonkao Panin at All submissions due February 28 2003. Go to for specifications.

observers 20 Tonkao Panin looks at the Postparkasse in Vienna and its rippling stone walls. 26 Ward Eagen discusses the stitching of space and time in the work of Frank Gehry. 40 Weave: a look at Bruce Mau’s Life Style, and other things by Stephanie White. 44 Ask her what she makes — Jill Bambury sews a tale of architecture, fashion and making garments. details 23 Tom Strickland interviews Mitchell Hall of KPMB about the steel tapestries on the Genome Centre at McGill University.

stephanie white

50 back page bridges Brooks Aqueduct — exerpts from Walter Hildebrandt’s long poem called Coming Home. Sewing

On Site review


Lethbridge Modern Shawn Van Sluys


nnovative techniques and inventive materials, intense luminosity and gridded patterns— these are the essential elements that create transparent, free flowing and engaging modernist space. Lethbridge is particularly striking for the application of modern design principles to a vernacular architecture in a city that experienced rapid postwar growth. The well preserved examples of modern buildings featured in Lethbridge Modern, an exhibition that opened October 19, 2002 at the southern Alberta Art Gallery, demonstrate that architectural integrity and style were not forfeited in the rush to develop Lethbridge as a regional centre after the Second World War. Modernism was strategically deployed at many scales. Elements of standardisation and new construction were promoted by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, established in the 1950s, for the efficient construction of houses to meet the post war demand. These houses blended openness and a gridded order with new prefabricated construction materials.

climate, the interruptive coulees, the agricultural economy and the diversity of cultures and religions influenced the application of the modern aesthetic to local buildings. Lethbridge Modern as an exhibition, a symposium and a catalogue, is intended to expose the local, regional and national communities of Canada to the often neglected history of modern architecture in their midst. As more and more examples of this architecture are disappearing from our communities, exhibition so of this nature are critical for the preservation and understanding of our cultural landscape.

OFFICE BUILDING 1953 for MEECH, MITCHELL AND MEECH ARCHITECTS Architect: Meech, Mitchell and Meech Two of the best Lethbridge modern architects, George Robins and George Watson, worked within this office building on 529 - 6th Street South.The building is characterized by its front facade grid of glass and steel, its exposed steel staircase visible from the street, its interior partitions of floor-to-ceiling glass and steel and its custom door handles and period suspended light fixtures. Today, the second level interior is occupied by the Chamber of Commerce, preserved with only minor renovations over the past 50 years.

Lethbridge Modern is curated by Gerald Forseth FRAIC and Victoria Baster of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge. 

The office of Meech Mitchell & Meech, Architects balanced a series of primary coloured panels on the facade with adjacent walls of translucent glass. These enclose a minimalist garden reflecting the spare prairie landscape.

john dean

Contrasting the vernacular and the domestic with the universal and the international results in a unique vocabulary of design and architect in Lethbridge. Also the extreme

Lethbridge moderne


es techniques novatrices et des matériaux inusités, une luminosité intense et des motifs grillagés – voici les éléments essentiels qui viennent créer un espace moderne transparent, fluide et attirante. Lethbridge est particulièrement reconnue pour son application de principes de conception modernes à l’architecture vernacu4

On Site review

laire d’une ville qui a connu une croissance après-guerre rapide accélérée. Les exemples bien préservés des immeubles modernes de Lethbridge moderne, une exposition qui a ouvert ses portes le 19 octobre 2002 à la Southern Alberta Art Gallery, démontrent que l’intégrité et le style architecturaux n’ont pas

Sewing Issue 8 2002

été affectés par le développement hâtif de Lethbridge comme centre régional après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. On y trouve un contraste entre le vernaculaire et le domestique, mariés aux résultats universels et internationaux. Il en résulte un vocabulaire particulier de conception et d’architecture. De plus, le climat extrême, les

ravines interrompues, l’économie agricole et la diversité des cultures et des religions sont venus influencer l’application d’un esthétisme moderne aux édifices de la ville. Les conservateurs de l’exposition Lethbridge moderne sont Gerald Forseth FRAIC et Victoria Baster de la Faculté des beaux-arts de l’Université de Lethbridge. 

Edmonton newly urban, again Dean Russell


rban design, in theory, strives to attain a multitude of ends simultaneously, from the provision of shelter for activities, to the creation of a sense of place, to the technological soundness of the built environment, to the health of fiscal and biological elements. The Modern movement and our post cultural information age have generally ignored climate and culture in the making of architecture, relying instead on technological solutions to keep out weather and provide state if the art environmental controls. This has given us placeless cities with buildings that could be in Edmonton, Toronto or Shanghai, compromising the integrity of architecture as a cultural expression. For decades Edmonton has taken infrastructure and placed it in the suburbs, enabled by fifty years of automobile culture. For every car in the downtown there are two parking stalls — an automobile graveyard! Edmonton’s Planning Commission has recently begun to reclaim the open spaces of downtown for infrastructure to anchor both residence and amenities to bolster Edmonton’s presence as a city. Philip Lofts is a project of mixed-use, turn of the nineteenth century spaces in Edmonton’s warehouse district that maintains both commercial and residential components. As the need for downtown employees and professionals increases, the need for infill projects such as the Philip Lofts will also expand and building typologies will evolve, recolonizing the downtown core.

dean russell

Louise McKinney Park, on the North Saskatchewan River is part of Edmonton’s protected green belt. At the moment the river front is not as defined as it could be. Year-round events have spurred a long-term community initiative to give a harder edge and a primary entry to the river valley. This includes public single story buildings with a river walk, spinning off smaller public centres that are still tied back to the downtown. The most controversial of these urban renewal projects is the early twentieth century Rossdale Water Treatment Facility, located on the flood planes of the North Saskatchewan. The architectural community proposes a mixed use building incorporating seasonal and year round uses, with a residential component. Its presence on the river sustains a natural connection to the valley’s pedestrian and bicycle paths, while maintaining the hard edge of the downtown core, a quality that Edmonton needs to exploit. Decipher this place. Convert these underused artifacts of a superseded infrastructure and link them back to the working downtown. Edmonton’s sense of urban place with its extreme winters and summers, its river and its valleys will start to re-validate its placeless downtown core. 

Urbaine, une fois de plus plusieurs décennies, P endant Edmonton a pris son infrastructure et l’a placée dans ses banlieux, ce qui a été possible en raison des cinquante dernières années de culture automobile. La Commission de planification d’Edmonton a récemment commencé à rapatrier les espaces de bureau du centre-ville à des fins d’infrastructures et pour ancrer résidences et commodités dans le but

de hausser la présence d’Edmonton en tant que ville. Le projet Philip Lofts est un projet à multiples usages. Il s’agit d’espaces datant du virant du IXXe siècle dans un district d’entrepôts d’Edmonton, qui garde des composantes commerciales et résidentielles. Le Parc Louise McKinney, sur la rive de la rivière Saskatchewan-Nord et une partie de la ceinture de verdure protégée d’Edmonton développe un contour à caractère nettement délimité,

avec des immeubles publiques à un niveau, un sentier longeant la rivière et de plus petits centres publics qui sont reliés au centre-ville. Le projet le plus controversé est celui d’une installation de traitement des eaux naturelles de Rossdale, datant du début du XXe siècle, se trouvant sur les terres inondées de la rivière SaskatchewanNord. Sa présence sur la rivière vient assurer la continuité d’un lien naturel aux pistes pédestres et cyclables de la vallée, tout en assurant la délimita-

tion du cœur du centre-ville, une qualité que la ville d’Edmonton se doit d’exploiter. Venez décoder cet endroit! Convertissez ces artefact sous-utilisés d’une infrastructure supplantée et reliez-les au centre-ville du travail. Le sens d’Edmonton d’une place urbaine, avec ses hivers et ses étés extrêmes, sa rivière et ses vallées, viendront remettre en vigueur son centre-ville dépourvu d’endroits. 


On Site review


Architecture and sewing


y tying architecture and sewing together in this issue of On|Site magazine, we intended to bring into focus a relationship we believe lies at the silent core of architectural design practice, a relationship that is always present but rarely discussed or highlighted as the subject of discourse. Gottfried Semper identified textiles as a primordial art (Urkunst) that serves as a source for architectural types and analogies. But Semper was mostly concerned with notions of cover and binding rather than full range of potential real and metaphoric associations. In his writing, cover refers to the thing unifying a collective by wrapping it from the outside; binding refers to the action of joining disparate parts, traditionally in a sewn joint. Semper pointed to costumes and cladding, elements of the cover, as the two historical ways textiles affected architectural design. By costumes Semper literally understood the clothes people wear, or materials, and their aesthetic relation to contemporaneous buildings while by cladding he meant the clothes that buildings wear! We believe that Semper was ahead of his time in foreseeing the potential in the textile arts, or sewing, for architectural analogies. Today the analogies go farther and, perhaps, deeper but certainly include Semper’s categories. We understand sewing to refer to constructive, compositional, ordering, and conceptual techniques, and to metaphors for urban, landscape and building design at the spatial, material, and constructive levels.

Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Robert Barnstone

A metaphor is a word that transfers or carries meaning over from one object to another; suggesting a connection between two dissimilar things or two objects not usually associated together. Analogy, on the other hand, is a way to reveal the similar aspects of two objects that are otherwise dissimilar. Sewing therefore is both analogous to some aspects of architectural practice and a metaphor for others. The essays in this issue sometimes examine sewing as metaphor, other times as analogy. Sewing itself is a way of connecting two things, usually pieces of fabric, along a seam. Sometimes the seam joins two similar entities and sometimes it joins two very different ones — for example, a patchwork quilt is made of many pieces of different fabric, while a shirt is made from several pieces of the same fabric. Sewing can suggest any number of interpretations depending on the context -- from the city to landscape, from individual buildings to installation pieces and construction methods. At the urban scale, sewing can suggest a strategy for reading urban conditions as disparate objects stitched together at seams. The seams might be visible elements such as streets, blocks, and landscape or invisible ones such as planning zones and neighborhoods. Sewing can suggest similar readings at the scale of landscape, especially in an urban setting, or it can propose a strategy for inserting landscape elements into the built environment. 

Arcitecture and sewing in action with techniques of pneumatic construction —sewing building components together, along with complex spatial layering —sewing space, in a third-year design studio project at Washington State University. Here we are working with the new wood/plastic composite materials being developed at the university. The wood/plastic was donated by Louisiana Pacific. The projects were part of an exhibition here at the university -- they are large scale, on average 6 feet high by 8 feet wide.

Gottfried Semper, ‘Prospectus: Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts or Practical Aesthetics (1859)’. The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings. Trans. Harry Francis Malgrave and Wolfgang Hermann. (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989) p. 175.


n reliant l’architecture et en cousant ce numéro de la revue OnSite, nous faisons une mise au point sur la relation qui se trouve au centre silencieux de la pratique de conception architecturale, une relation qui est toujours présente mais qui fait rarement l’objet d’une discussion ou d’une mise en évidence comme sujet de discours. Le terme « coudre » a trait tant aux techniques constructives, 6

On Site review

compositionnelles, d’ordonnancement et conceptuelles, qu’aux métaphores de la conception urbaine, de paysage et de la conception d’immeubles à des niveaux spatiaux, matériels et constructifs. Le fait de coudre peut insinuer un nombre d’interprétations, selon le contexte – de la ville au paysage, d’immeubles individuels aux pièces d’installations et aux méthodes de construction. À

Sewing Issue 8 2002

l’échelle urbaine, le fait de coudre peut avoir trait à une stratégie servant à interpréter les conditions urbaines comme objets disparates cousus les uns aux autres aux coutures. Les coutures comme telles peuvent paraître comme étant visibles, notamment en tant que rues, blocs et paysages, ou comme étant invisibles, notamment en tant que zones de planification et voisinages. Le fait de coudre peut aussi porter à des interprétations sem-

blables à l’échelle du paysage, surtout en milieu urbain, ou à une stratégie visant à insérer des éléments du paysage dans l’environnement de construction. Cette collection d’essais présentés dans ce présent document n’est pas un examen compréhensif de la couture et de l’architecture, mais elle représente plutôt une introduction aux possibilités intrinsèques à ce sujet. 

Quilting with glass, cedar and fir: a workshop and studio in Rossland, BC Robert Barnstone


t is unusual to think about architecture in the same terms as we would think about making a quilt — sewing together patches of unrelated materials, often scrap, in a collage-like juxtaposition — but quilting describes the ways in which the workshop/studio project in Rossland, B C was designed and constructed. The project took a ramshackle, collapsing old truck workshop and transformed it into a winterized, habitable artist’s studio. The original structure was a wood post and beam, wood clad shed with fourteen-foot high ceilings, a flat roof, mostly dirt floors, and two plywood panel barn doors on the front. Many of the rafters and much of the exterior wood siding was rotten; the entire building was leaning at a 10-degree angle to one side. The first challenge was to decide what could be salvaged and then to decide how to incorporate new construction into the existing structure. The technique was, from the start, the sewing together of old and new, collaging of found and salvaged materials with pre-existing ones. The concrete foundation walls, the large supporting posts and the ridge beam were all in fine condition and could be saved. After closer inspection, we discovered that the rafters were rotting at their outer edges. We realized that if we removed the rotten ends, we could use most of their length. We also realized that the rot was being caused by the excessive amounts of water rolling off the flat roof during the spring melt. By stitching rafter extensions onto the ends of the old rafters, we made the roof overhangs much longer so that when the snow melts, the water does not fall against the shed. The front façade is made of recycled glass and surplus windows purchased from a local custom window fabricator. Both the steel frame for the two glass doors, and the façade, were designed like a quilt whose outer dimensions and component parts were fixed. The challenge was to make a coherent looking design from disparate parts. The deep red color used both on the steel and a wood frame helps stitch the pieces together visually. Because the façade is facing southwest, it acts as a passive solar collector. The side and back walls were constructed using salvaged, cast glass, door fronts from old Herman Miller furniture, with occasional cedar lattice inserts. The glass and cedar panels are wrapped around the supporting building volume like a large blanket suspended a distance from the tar paper underneath, forming an air pocket that heats up during the day and helps keep the building warm at night. The cedar was used for visual relief and in places where cutting the glass would have been difficult —

Le studio Barnstone


l est inhabituel de voir l’architecture comme on le ferait pour un piquer – le fait de rapiécer des brins de tissus non reliés, bien souvent des rebuts, en juxtaposition – mais la description d’un piquer définit bien les façons dont on a conçu et construit le projet de l’atelier et du studio de Rossland, en Colombie-Britannique.

Dans le cadre de ce projet, nous avons pris un vieil atelier de camions délabré sur le point de s’effondrer et l’avons transformé en un studio d’artiste hiverisé et habitable. La façade est faite de verre recyclé et de fenêtres de surplus que nous nous sommes procurés d’un fabricant de fenêtres personnalisées de la région. Tant le châs-

sis d’acier des deux portes de verre que la façade ont été conçus comme un piquer dont les dimensions et les composantes externes ont été rapiécées. Le défi était le suivant : de concevoir une structure cohérente à partir de pièces disparates. La couleur rouge foncé a été utilisée tant sur l’acier que sur la structure de bois pour tenter de relier les pièces les unes

aux autres, visuellement. Puisque la façade fait face au sud-ouest, elle agit comme capteur solaire passif. Les murs latéraux et celui de l’arrière ont été construits à partir de devants de portes de verre coulé récupérées d’anciens meubles Herman Miller, avec des insertions de treillis en cèdre. Les panneaux de verre et de cèdre Sewing

On Site review


around the beam/wall connections for instance. The patchwork pattern developed here, as on the solar façade, out of necessity. Although the panels had originally been one uniform size, some had broken, chipped or cracked, and had to be cut down. Even the application method is reminiscent of quilting techniques; strips of Douglas fir form the seams onto which the glass and cedar is fastened. As on quilts, the seams are visible. Plus, the glass, cedar and battens are layered spatially like woven cloth.

sont enveloppés autour du volume d’immeuble de soutien, comme dans le cas d’une grande couverture suspendue à une distance du papier goudronné se trouvant en dessous, formant une poche d’air qui se réchauffe pendant le jour et aide à garder l’immeuble chaud pendant la nuit. Le cèdre a été utilisé à des fins d’atténuation visuelle et, à certains endroits où 8

On Site review

la coupe du verre aurait été difficile – autour des jonctions entre les poutres et les murs, par exemple. Le motif de mosaïque a aussi été élaboré dans ce cas, comme pour le cas de la façade solaire, par nécessité. Bien que les panneaux étaient, à l’origine, de la même taille, certains s’étaient brisés, étaient écaillés ou craqués, et ont dû être abattus. Même la

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Even the interior was made using sewing and collage techniques. The building was designed to function as both a sculptor’s workshop and living quarters. The columns march down the center of the interior space making a natural division into two. We inserted one new volume housing the bathroom, a closet, the water heater, and a kitchenette. Atop this box is a loft sleeping area separating the one side of the workshop into two smaller spaces. We mounted barn door tracks on the ceiling, next to the columns, and fabricated a 6’ by 12’ gypsum wall to suspend from the tracks. By moving the wall forward or backwards along the tracks it is possible to alter the spatial configuration of the studio to accommodate different uses. The hanging wall therefore is simultaneously a stitching device and spatial divider. 

méthode d’application nous rappelle les techniques du piquer; des bandes de Douglas taxifolié forment les joints auxquels le verre et le cèdre sont attachés. Comme dans le cas d’un piquer, les joints sont visibles. En plus, le verre, le cèdre et le liteau sont espacés par couches, comme du matériel tissé. 

Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Robert Barnstone teach at Washington State University and Delft University of Technology, and live in eastern Washington State.


On Site review


Haystack Veil représente un paysage de coupures d’arbrisseaux, trente mille branches coupées et reliées dans une voile flottant sur la mousse et le lichen qui couvrent une pente le long de l’océan Atlantique. Haystack Veil suit la topographie primordiale et vient agir comme mante pour la terre.

Haystack Veil is a landscape of cut saplings, thirty thousand twigs cut and bundled into a knit veil floating over a moss and lichen covered cliff alongside the Atlantic Ocean. Haystack Veil bears on the land following primordial topography, a cloak over the earth.

Then Jacob rent his cloths . . .liminal membranes. Philip Beesley


have been making a particular kind of architectural textile for several years. The fabrics described here have immersive and reflexive qualities. Reflex is a response that suggests the textile being touched touches back. Immersion goes beyond the familiar sense of being clothed and surrounded by a fabric. Here the term implies animated space expanding and dissolving boundaries. In these fabrics boundaries of our selves — body and psyche — are questioned. The hand of a fabric (the particular interaction of nap, bias and weave that combines to give every fabric a specific quality of movement and interaction when it is handled) is often referred to in descriptive reviews of textile art. We know that handling textile has a particular link to human

emotion, with poignant implications in the way textile flexes and moves with us. When we grieve, we grasp and caress and tear cloth… The blurred psychic boundaries between our bodies and other ‘transitional objects’, for example between infants and their toys and blankets, their ‘lovies’1 explains that when we read in Genesis that “Jacob rent his cloths”, we may understand that Jacob’s clothes were part of his anatomy, and that he was in effect tearing himself apart.2 Textiles have always acted as second skins. Similarly building envelopes can be tuned precisely to work as layers of our collective bodies. This expanded definition of the hand of textiles relates to the projects here in several ways: flexible draping finds a subtle skin for the land; a porous, ephemeral space opens boundaries; an intimate prosthetic relationship between living functions and fabric — here the hand is active, flexing and recoiling. The projects here can be understood as an extension of the ordinary

Membranes liminales


es tissus décrits ici ont des qualités immersives et réflexives. Le réflexe est une réaction qui propose que le textile que l’on touche nous touche aussi. L’immersion va bien au-delà du sens familier que l’on accorde à ce mot, notamment celui d’être vêtu et entouré d’un tissu. Dans 10

On Site review

le présent cas, le terme implique l’expansion et la dissolution des limites de l’espace animé. La main d’un tissu (l’interaction particulière entre la couche pelucheuse, le biais et le tissage qui, combinés, donnent une qualité précise de mouvement et d’interaction à un tissu lorsqu’on

Sewing Issue 8 2002

le manipule) est utilisée dans le cadre d’examens descriptifs de l’art du textile. Nous savons que le fait de manipuler des textiles a un lien particulier à l’émotion humaine, avec les implications vives liées à la façon dont le textile se plie et se déplace avec nous. Les textiles ont toujours

agi comme une deuxième peau. De même, les enveloppes immobilières peuvent être syntonisées précisément pour agir comme couches à nos corps collectifs. 

Erratics Net (right) is a complex interlinked wire fabric mounted on a glacier-scoured terrain in Nova Scotia. Layers of new strata floating just above the surface of the land are developed within the foam-like filigree of this textile installation.

Erratics Net est un tissu fabriqué de réseaux complexes de fils interreliés de façon complexe, monté sur un terrain brossé par les glaciers en Nouvelle-Écosse. Les couches de nouvelles strates qui flottent juste au-dessus de la surface du sol sont développées au milieu du filigrane mousseux de cette installation de textile.

industrial practice of reinforcing landscapes using geotextiles. At the same time, the projects tend to question boundaries of psyche. Their large-scale field structures offer immersion, an expansion rendering our physical bodies porous and offering wide-flung dispersal of identity. This might remind us of a long mystic tradition. A recent example from modern European culture could be the mid-century writing of Georges Bataille, pursuing ecstatic alterity: This work shares common interests with early strains of psychoanalysis. In a passage presented to a surrealist circle in 1937, Bataille’s associate Roger Caillois studied insect behaviour as an analogy for a psychopathy

of dissociated identity-specificially, the assimilation of insects into space through mimicry:

…I stood up, and I was completely taken… Only my legs— which kept me standing upright, connected what I had become to the floor— kept a link to what I had been: the rest was an inflamed gushing forth, overpowering, even free of its own convulsion. A character of dance and of decomposing agility… 3

Then the body separates itself from thought, the individual breaks the boundary of his skin and occupies the other side of his sense. He tries to look at himself from any point whatever in space […] And he invents spaces of which he is ‘the convulsive possession’[…] Caillois explores a vertigo, an attraction by space,… by the effect of which life seems to lose ground, blurring in its retreat the frontier between the organism and the milieu… 4

The anima which is treated in these works as a sacred quality is a product of geometry and material synthesis. Making a new nature. 

Genesis 37:24, NRSV D. W. Winnicott, Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena, 1951. 3 Georges Bataille, Ecstasy, Inner Experience. [1943] Leslie Anne Boldt, trans. New York, 1988. 4 Roger Caillois, ‘Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia’ [1937]. John Shepley, trans. in October: the First Decade, Cambridge, 1987 1 2

Haystack Veil, Haystack Institute for Crafts, Maine 1997, collaboration with Warren Seelig and students: Judith Botzan, Sophie Hammond-Hagman, Emily Haris, Mi-kyoung Lee, Dale McDowell, Kelli Phariss, Stephanie Ross, Michele Rubin, Kristine Woods.

Erratics Net, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, 1998, with DalTech Faculty of Architecture students: Kelly Chow, Chris Ferguson, Nicola Grigg, Sandra Lee, Beth Lewis, Sunil Sarwal,Vicco Yip,Thomas Wright.

Philip Beesley is an architect in Toronto, Ontario. He teaches at Waterloo and lived in Rome in 1997 having received the Canada Council’s Rome Prize. This text was originally presented at the Subtle Technologies Conference,Toronto, May 19, 2001. Sewing

On Site review


Economy, Quality, and Fit: Sewing at Office dA Hansy Luz Better


All operations in the textile arts seek to transform raw materials with the appropriate properties into products, whose common features are great pliancy and considerable absolute strength, sometimes serving in threaded and banded forms as binding and fastenings, sometimes used as pliant surfaces to cover, to hold, to dress, to enclose … Gottfried Semper,The Textile Art

ewing, through its various techniques and by virtue of the body it is tailored to fit, resists mass production, commodification and homogeneity. The art of sewing is selfindulgent, labor intensive, and thereby excluded from the material processes of industrial production. The stitch exposes labor; the value of textile art lies precisely in the human labor required to craft the product, making it antithetical to the logic of mass production and wholesale consumerism. As the construction industry conforms to its internal logic of inflation and recession, based on the availability of labor and materials, historically the sewing industry has proven itself to be contracyclical to major economic trends1. Throughout history, sewing has been perceived as an alternative means of creating higher quality clothing. Off the shelf, ready to wear garments are perceived by those who sew as being of lesser quality in detail and aesthetics. The sewer reconfigures garments to personalize the expression of each piece. Office dA collapses the craft of sewing with the logic of prét-â-porter through a form of architectural tailoring that allows for a flexibility and mutability of materials which avoid classification by type. Blending techniques of customization with computer-aided manufacturing, they participate as ‘prosumers’ in the ‘becoming’ of a product -- avoiding commodification by simultaneously producing and consuming economic goods and services. The tailor’s insistence upon quality resists the numb consumption of off the shelf products. Office dA’s domestic operation on aluminum panels and woven rope employs the analogy of home sewing towards contemporary architectural craft. To domesticate, in this sense, is to operate on the ready made material and transform it into a product attuned to both the human scale and to a tactile experience of the material.

Sherry Schofield-Tomschin’s article ‘Home Sewing: Motivational Changes in Twentieth Century’, in The Culture of Sewing by Barabara Burman, Oxford: New York, c.1999, describes how the sewing industry does well when other industries are in a recession, and is contra-cyclical to major industry trends.

Museum of Modern Art Waterfall



On Site review

Office dA


’opération domestique d’Office dA en matière de panneaux d’aluminium et de cordes tissées applique l’analogie de la couture-maison au métier de l’architecture contemporaine. Le Sewing Issue 8 2002

fait de domestiquer, en ce sens, implique d’avoir à travailler avec du matériel prêt à l’usage et de le transformer en un matériel adapté tant à l’échelle humaine qu’à l’expérience tactile du matériel.

John Horner

Sci-Arc Installation

At the installation at SCI-Arc, the logic of the net is employed to subvert traditionally perceived distinctions between compressive and tensile forces within structural systems. An implied surface is created by the tensegrity system. The woven net is constructed from a combination of flacid rope tensile members and resin impregnated rope forming compression struts; the two are loop-knotted together Dans le cadre de l’installation SCIArc, on a recours à la logique du réseau pour renverser les distinctions traditionnellement perçues entre les forces de compression et de traction au sein des systèmes structuraux. Une surface implicite est créée par le système de ten-

to create a web. The knot connection is exploited to allow the net to connect and adjust to various conditions within the space. Office dA maintains flexibility in the knitting, twisting and reconfiguring the subsystem to the whole. The stitch transforms residual space into a tailored fitting of the space’s formal and material irregularities, refocusing attention upon the ephemeral nature of the installation.

soriel. Le réseau ainsi tissé est construit à partir d’une combinaison de corde flasque construite d’éléments résistants et d’une corde imprégnée de résine, ce qui vient former des entretoises. Ces deux cordes sont reliées par nœuds à plein poing de façon à

créer un réseau. Ce réseau de nœuds est exploité de façon à lui permettre de s’embrancher et de s’ajuster aux diverses conditions de cet espace. Office dA maintient une flexibilité de tricot, tordant et reconfigurant ainsi le soussystème de façon à ce qu’il se

conforme au système tout entier. Cette couture vient transformer l’espace résiduel en un raccord sur mesure des irrégularités formelles et matérielles du bureau et, en conséquence, porte notre attention sur la nature éphémère de l’installation comme telle. Sewing

On Site review


The ceiling at Upper Crust, for example, was created using digital modeling and CAD/CAM technology to reconfigure common aluminum plate into a panelized unit. With interlocking seams, the ‘break-formed’ sheet is transformed into a tailored membrane consisting of a gradually mutating pattern. Each facet is supported by its perimeter tabs, and the stitching of individual pieces forms an aggregated fluid metal fabric. The stitched membrane is a hybrid structure, integrating building trades through its accommodation of HVAC equipment, fire suppression system, and lighting. It spans vertical and horizontal distances and is both selfsupporting and space making.

Architectural sewing, as demonstrated in the ceiling at Upper Crust and in the installation at SCI-Arc, relies upon the conceptual and structural pliability of the stitch and the technological reductions of the loop stitch in the production of discursive form. Sewing produces a form that bears the traces of human labor and craftwork, while working within the logic of digital production. The stitch is a strategy for combining materials as well as a formal expression of technique. The strategy of the stitch suggests a critical attitude toward the role of craft in contemporary culture. Custom tailoring that works within the existing market relationships between commodities and consumers serves a cultural function by resisting the status quo and embracing difference. 

Upper Crust Restaurant

Office dA

Hansy Luz Better,Visiting Faculty at Rhode Island School of Design and Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Le plafond de Upper Crust, par exemple, a été créé en ayant recours à la modélisation numérique et à la technologie CAO/FAO visant à reconfigurer une plaque ordinaire d’aluminium en unité industrialisée. Avec les joints à agrafage, la feuille de décrochement est transformée 14

On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

en une membrane taillée qui consiste en un motif graduellement mutant. Chacune de ses facettes est supportée par des onglets de périmètre, et la couture de chacune de ces pièces forme un agrégat de tissu métallique fluide. La membrane cousue est en fait une structure hybride, intégrant les

métiers du bâtiment par sa capacité d’adaptation à de l’équipement CVC, à un système extincteur d’incendie, et d’éclairage. Cette membrane s’étend tant à la verticale qu’à l’horizontale; elle est autoportante et génératrice d’espace. 

The Laszlo Files Office dA with Daniel Gallagher


he design of the Laszlo Files are based on new possibilities afforded by the use of computer numerically controlled (CNC) technology. There are two cabinetry types. They are both conceived as monolithic objects --like butcher blocks -- that are carved out of massive pieces of stacked plywood. Accordingly, traditional distinctions between functional and symbolic elements – tops, fronts, hardware, structure, surface -- are eliminated in lieu of a smoothed and singular strategy; all aspects of the design are accounted for through the act of routing into the depth of the wood. Both pieces of cabinetry are designed to accommodate both repetition as well as variation, an option easily afforded through digital modeling processes. So too, each piece capitalizes on three-axis milling techniques to produce artificial and invented graining as a result of the striations latent within laminated plywood constructions.

The second cabinetry type is composed of stacked plywood that run perpendicular to the cabinetry fronts. The end-grain turns the corner and descends the fronts in a continuous fashion so as to enhance the monolithic nature of the piece. Similar to the other cabinet type, the front acquires undulations that enable the design of cabinetry pulls at the seam between the top and bottom drawers. The undulations are flattened at the edges to enable flush connections between two adjoining cabinet fronts. The resulting appearance acquires a paradoxical reading as the solid nature of the wood block confronts the taut and fluid nature of the fabric-like surface. 

Fichiers Laszlo


a conception des fichiers Laszlo est axée sur les possibilités qui s’offrent à nous par le biais de la technologie de la commande numérique par ordinateur (CNC). Il existe deux types de meubles. Tous les deux sont conçus en tant qu’objets monolithiques, comme

des blocs de boucher, qui sont sculptés à même de pièces massives de contreplaqué empilé. En conséquence, les distinctions traditionnelles entre les éléments fonctionnels et symboliques, soit les dessus, les devants, les ferrures, la structure et la surface, sont éliminées pour laisser place

Office dA

The first cabinet is composed of a stacked laminate counter top whose lines run parallel to the cabinetry front. Consistent with the top, the cabinetry front laminates appear as extensions of the end-grain. The front is routed out in a fashion to create a smooth transition from the counter top extending the end-grain down the cabinetry front -- turning the corner, as it were. The routed front is subjected to various undulations that perform in a variety of ways. Their depth is maximized in the center so that two pulls are created for the opening of the drawers fronts. They are recessed and compressed at the edges to create a reveal when two cabinetry fronts are put side by side. The profile of the bottom is also left to undulate as if draped like a piece of fabric, countering the static and monolithic image of the stacked wood piece.

The Laszlo Line: Filing storage units Office dA with Daniel Gallagher Project Design Monica Ponce de Leon, Nader Tehrani, R. Shane Williamson Project Team Jeffrey Asanza, Richard Lee Fabrication R. Shane Williamson

à une stratégie plus lisse et singulière; tous les aspects de la conception sont désignés par le biais du toupillage dans les profondeurs du bois. Les pièces de meubles sont conçues pour s’adapter tant à la répétition qu’à la variation, une option qui est facilitée par les processus de modelage numérisé.

De même, chaque pièce vient exploiter trois techniques de fraisage à trois axes pour produire un grainage artificiel et inventé qui résulte des striures latentes se trouvant dans les constructions de contreplaqué laminé. 


On Site review


Gridshell at the Weald and Downland Museum, West Sussex

This text has been assembled from the architect’s project statement and the project description in the British Construction Industry Awards, October 2002.

Edward Cullinan Architects


he Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex contains a large collection of ancient timber framed buildings, relocated from all over Britain, often salvaged from development sites. The Downland Gridshell by Edward Cullinan Architects, London, is actually two buildings stacked vertically: one for the processing, analysis, documentation, restoration display of artefacts, which is partially underground and the other, in a lightweight timber grid shell, for the repair and construction of timber frames for use within the museum’s many historic buildings. The total area is 1200m2 and the project sits on what was previously a museum parking lot, conserving the open air landscape.

Grilles et enveloppes


ment. Les Downland Gridshell de Edward Cullinan, architecte de Londres, consistent en fait en deux immeubles empilés à la verticale : un qui sert au traitement, à l’analyse, à la documentation et à la restauration relative à l’exposition d’artefacts, qui se trouve en partie sous la terre, et l’autre, dans une enveloppe en

remain thin and flexible. Laths are paired and spaced using a node joint that allowed sliding and scissoring of the layers during the building process and which was locked when the shell had settled into its final form. Oak is extremely strong and supple when freshly cut. 10.4km of 35mm x 50mm green oak laths were cut into short sections, knots removed and then glued together into long lengths. The form of the roof is a tunnel 50m long and varying in width from 12.5m to 16m. Heavy oak sections form stiff boundary portals at each end. The constantly changing double curvature cross section of the tunnel is essential for overall stability of this very thin shell. All the laths and joints needed for the roof

grille de bois d’œuvre, sert à la réparation et à la construction des cadres de bois d’œuvre servant aux divers bâtiments historiques du musée. La superficie totale est de 1 200 m2. L’entrepôt pour artefacts représente une antithèse de l’atelier déstructuré et légèrement isolé qui se trouve juste au-dessus.

Coupé à même la colline et construit de murs en maçonnerie renforcis avec de lourdes poutres de frêne qui forment son toit et le plancher de l’atelier se trouvant en dessous, il représente une structure bien scellée et protégée par la terre. La masse de terre environnante, de même qu’une série de tuyaux de ciment e d war d c u lllin e n ar c h it e c t s

e Weald & Downland Open Air Museum de West Sussex contient une imposante collection d’immeubles en charpentes de bois, relocalisés de partout à travers l’Angleterre. Ces immeubles ont souvent été rescapés de divers secteurs de développe-

The artefact storage is the antithesis of the loose-fitting, lightly insulated workshop above it. Cut into a hillside, made of reinforced masonry walls with heavy ash beams forming its roof and the floor of the workshop above, it is a well-sealed, earth protected structure. The surrounding earth mass and a series of concrete pipe earth tubes allow the the entire building to be heating with a domestic propane boiler located in a small mechanical room. Because framing carpenters need large amounts of open space to move and erect large timber frames, the workshop has long spans and a high ceiling. A double layer timber grid shell is used. A single layer system, such as found in geodesic domes is best for short spans. The long spans needed here used a double layer so that each member could


On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

were loosely assembled to form what was effectively a large rectangle of fabric spread out on a platform built at the level of the top of the tunnel. Then the supporting jacks were let down and sections of the platform removed, so the sides of the shell gradually lowered down to their contact points on the floor. This was repetitive and time consuming work requiring a tremendous amount of patience to ensure that the laths slid and scissored where they should rather than sticking and splitting from temporary overloading. English and Normandy oak were used for the shell, local Douglas fir for secondary structures and local western red cedar for cladding. Various softwoods were used within glulaminated structures and local ash was donated for the workshop floor. The construction programme was 20 months with the gridshell lowering and forming operation taking about 15 weeks and another 10 weeks to clad. Despite the unique form of construction and the lead-in research and development period of 4 years (the architects began work in 1996), the original construction budget of £1.33 million was met. 

enfouis sous la terre, permettent à l’immeuble tout entier d’être chauffé à l’aide d’une chaudière domestique au propane se trouvant dans la petite chambre des appareils mécaniques. Puisque les charpentiers ont besoin d’un vaste espace pour déplacer et monter les ossatures

de bois d’œuvre, l’atelier est d’une vaste étendue et est doté d’un plafond élevé. Une double enveloppe de grille de bois d’œuvre est utilisée. Un système à strate unique, tel que celui des dômes géodésiques, représente la meilleure solution pour les petites étendues. Les longues étendues de strates dont on a besoin dans ce

cas-ci ont recours à des strates doubles afin que chaque membre puisse être mince et flexible. Des lattes sont jumelées et espacées à l’aide d’un joint qui permet le glissement et le détourage des strates dans le cadre du processus de construction, et qui est verrouillé lorsque l’enveloppe est fixée à sa forme finale. 


On Site review


Approaching the Postsparkasse, two stone figures float above its roof. These two human figures stand tall, on the highest point of the building. Their gestures are inviting, with their arms stretched forward, they seem to offer something to us. Even at a distance, they are clearly female. Their figures, garments and gestures appear fragile, yet also have a certain solidity. At a second look, each figure is attached to a pair of wings. Rather than lightness, the wings’ odd geometrical shape render weight and gravity. These creatures carry on their back a pair of monolithic wings that weight them down and anchor them to the building rather than set them free.

Façade Fabric: A Note from Vienna Another Look at The Post Office Saving Bank Tonkao Panin


uilt between 1904-1906, Otto Wagner’s Post Office Saving Bank has become one of the destinations that anyone with an architecturally curious mind traveling to Vienna must dutifully visit. It has long been a major destination along the guided architectural walk of the city and Wagner was Vienna’s most venerable, dignified and ultimate architect whose face had even graced one of Austria’s bank notes until it was replaced by the euro.

monolithic as the stone base frontally shows thickness and heavy weight. Each piece of stone is curved towards the bottom creating shadows and increasing visual weight much like the granite stone base of Wagner’s earlier work, the Karlsplatz station. This frontal weightiness of the base is presented in constrast with the smooth marble surface above.

Despite the vast amount of information available on the building and its architect, the Postsparkasse remains one of Vienna’s most enigmatic buildings. With apparent patterns composed of marble slabs and aluminum bolt heads, its façade fabrics are sewn together in a distinct way unlike any other buildings along the Vienna Ringstrasse.

This impression of thickness and weight, however, is defied by the bolt holes along the base and the exposed edge of the stone at the corner. A close inspection from an oblique angle reveals the building’s hidden constructive technique. Their corners reveal that the walls are not as heavy as they seem. What appeared to be heavy stones from the front turned out to be thin slabs of stone bolted to the wall. Here the loadbearing masonry wall was veneered by surface fabric analogous to it.

The Postparkasse cleverly manifested both the symbolic qualities of the Classical buildings and the modern construction system. Unlike the modern building system in which the frame is self supporting and the masonry is non-load-bearing infill, the Postparkasse is a hybrid building, with concrete floors and beams supported internally by concrete columns and externally by load-bearing masonry walls. These walls themselves are presented with the Classical base, shaft and cornice. If we were to ignore the bolts for a moment, the base of the Postparkasse appears to be

Above the ‘thick’ fabric of the stone base rest thin two centimetre marble panels, also bolted to the masonry wall. These marble panels are arranged in grid pattern as opposed to the bond pattern of load bearing masonry. This grid pattern emphasizes the thin and non-load bearing nature of the marble panels. The bolts’ heads seem to protrude from the marble panels above while they are recessed into the heavy stone slabs at the base. This slight gesture accentuates the contrast between the thinness of the shaft surface and thickness of the base surface. This visualization of the weight establishes the stability of the surface.


n autre regard à la caisse d’épargne du bureau de poste En dépit des montants vastes d’information qui sont disponibles à l’égard de cet immeuble et de son architecte, Otto Wagner, le Postsparkasse demeure l’un des immeubles les plus énigmatiques de Vienne. Avec ses motifs apparents composés de plaques de 18

On Site review

marbre et de ses têtes de boulons d’aluminium, les textiles de sa façade sont cousus les uns aux autres d’une façon distincte, comme aucun autre immeuble longeant la Ringstrasse de Vienne. Le Postparkasse témoigne de façon intelligente des deux qualités symboliques des immeubles classiques et d’un système de construction moderne. Contraire-

Sewing Issue 8 2002

ment au système de construction de poids, toutefois, est défiée par moderne dans lequel la structure les trous de boulons longeant Walking away from the Postsparkasse and looking back, the two angelic est autoportante et la maçonnerie sa base et les rebords exposés figures atop its roof now seem to hold less contrast to their base. The est un remplissage non portant, de la pierre du coin. Une inspecenigmatic figures embody both lightness and weight, solidity and fragility. le Postparkasse est un immeuble tion en oblique révèle la techhybride, avec ses planchers et ses nique de construction cachée de poutres de béton supportés, à l’immeuble. Les coins révèlent l’intérieur, par des colonnes de que les murs ne sont pas aussi béton et, à l’extérieur, par des lourds qu’ils le semblent. Ce qui murs en maçonnerie portante. semblait être des pierres lourdes Cette impression d’épaisseur et du devant s’avère être de fines


On Site review

tonkao panin


Both the stone and marble surfaces are set in a mortar bed, apparently fastened with four centimetre round by 12 centimetre long iron bolts, covered with lead and given aluminum caps. Yet, the anchor bolts had only a limited functional value. The enhanced and articulated bolts only held the panels in place during the first three weeks of construction while the binding mortar bed hardened. Despite the fact that they were only needed for a limited period of time, the architect chose not only to keep but also to enhance their appearance. The bolt heads are invested with a constructional meaning seemingly inspired by necessity. The façade pattern of the Postsparkasse becomes not only a textile design that responds to the designer’s aesthetics, but it aspires to represent the technological, economic and time-saving attributes of this type of construction and standardization. Had the bolts not been there in their exaggerated size and form, the nature of cladding material as a thin surface and the methods of construction would not have been easily perceived. In many ways, the bolts function as a sewing tool, binding pieces of façade fabric together, allowing the building to show at once lightness and weight, thinness and thickness, solidity and fragility, paradoxical conditions woven together within the building itself.  For further analysis see E. Ford, Details of Modern Architecture, Cambridge, MA, 1990, pp. 203-231.

plaques de pierre boulonnées au mur. Dans ce cas, le mur en maçonnerie portante a été plaqué d’une surface ayant un tissu qui lui est analogue. Les têtes de boulons sont dotées d’une signification structurale qui semble être inspirée par nécessité. Le motif de la façade du Postsparkasse devient ainsi beaucoup plus qu’un motif de textile 20

On Site review

qui répond au sens d’esthétisme du concepteur, mais il aspire à représenter les attributs technologiques, économiques et consciencieux du temps épargné typiques de ce type de construction et de normalisation. Si les boulons n’y avaient pas été, de taille et de forme exagérées, la nature du matériel plaqué, en tant que fine surface, et les méthodes

Sewing Issue 8 2002

de construction, n’auraient pas été aussi facilement perçues. De plusieurs façons, la fonction des boulons en tant qu’outil de couture, reliant les pièces du tissu de la façade les unes aux autres, permet à l’immeuble de faire preuve, de façon simultanée, de légèreté et de poids, d’étroitesse et d’épaisseur, de rigidité et de fragilité. 

Facade Fabric 2: The Genome Centre, McGill University Mitchell Hall KPMB Architects, Toronto, Ontario


uwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects has become a firm that is now recognized both nationally and internationally for its — most simply put — beautiful buildings. Although there are any number of taxonomies revealed to create these constructions, the aspect of architecture that is most thoroughly explored and revealed in a KPMB building is the construction systems and the resulting expression of the detail. Such an achievement is realized though a determination to maintain a high level of architectural discourse across all levels. The value in finding and maintaining this discourse under very difficult circumstances was recognized by Detlef Mertins in a Contemporary World Architects monogram about the firm: The construction industry, whose drive for economy constantly reduces the amount of material and the complexity of processes used, is mastered by these architects to stage a play of substance and dissolution; image and abstraction; stasis and movement; permanence and transience. Kuwabara Payne Mckenna Blumberg, Contemporary World Architects, Rockport Publishers, Inc. Gloucester, Massachusetts (1998)

Le Centre Genome


e qui suit est une partie d’une brève entrevue entre Tom Strickland et Michell Hall de KPMB au sujet du détail de la maille d’acier tissé du Centre Genome, un immeuble de recherche de l’Université McGill de Montréal.

Tom : Qu’est-ce qui a entraîné la décision d’avoir recours à de la maille d’acier tissé? Mitch : Il s’agit là d’une bien longue histoire! Le concept de recouvrement original était celui d’une pose de verre coulé [désignation commerciale de Pilkington : Profilit] dans le cadre d’une application à double paroi, principalement translucide. Puisque le client

Rob Kastelic

The following is a short interview between Tom Strickland and Mitchell Hall about a woven steel mesh detail on the Genome Centre, a scientific research building at McGill University in Montreal.

(Facilities Management Group) et le gestionnaire de projet ont perçu cette proposition comme étant trop expérimentale, en dépit du fait que l’on s’en soit servi en Europe pour près d’une centaine d’années dans le cadre d’applications industrielles et plus récemment dans le cadre de nombreux projets institutionnels

par des architectes de renommée dans toutes sortes de pays et conditions climatiques, nous avons dû opter pour une solution plus sûre qui comprenait le « Profilit » en tant qu’écran de pluie, appuyé d’un panneau-sandwich industriel. Ce panneau consiste en deux feuilles métalliques profilées préfinies des deux côtés et d’une isoSewing

On Site review


Tom: Both the Genome Centre and the Jackson-Triggs winery (see On Site 6) have investigated architectural surface and, reflexively, the wall system. As the project architect you have had a great influence on the outcome of these buildings and their surfaces. Were these investigations initiated by yourself, and is this a direction in which KPMB is moving?

Tom: Are there technological advantages to the mesh such as reduction in moisture penetration from driven rain? Mitch: I am sure that in mild weather conditions it could perform in this manner, however under severe conditions it would certainly be quite transparent to wind and rain, it is simply too open and is primarily about solar screening. The form of the west elevation very specifically was based on an interpreted need to provide screening from a very bright and powerful western sun exposure - an early site orientation observation. The weather-proof wall is the sandwich panel which is cheap, ugly and hardly architectural.

Mitch: I am interested in architectural innovation through the exploration of new materials, their applications, as well as the exploration of new architectural ideas — this is hardly unique. Fortunately, Marianne [McKenna, a partner of KPMB] has been very supportive and is similarly motivated. More and more, individuals in the firm are taking this approach. Great architecture is the product of a collaborative process. I have always promoted — insisted — on an architectural discourse on my teams, this project was no different.

Tom: Where is the mesh produced and who supplied it? Mitch: Rob Kastelic, a key member of my team, did the research and came up with a local supplier, a condition of acceptance and project requirement, W.S. Tyler out of St. Catharines, Ontario. Although capable of producing our custom mesh specification in Canada, they felt the quality would be far superior if it were made by their parent company, Haver & Boecker, in Germany - another long story. As this was their first project in Canada, the supplier was motivated to provide a top quality product in order to promote and market its architectural application here.

Tom: What drove the decision to use the woven steel mesh? Mitch: This is a very long story. The original cladding concept was a cast channel glass [trade name: Profilit by Pilkington] in a double walled, primarily translucent application. Since this proposal was seen by the client (Facilities Management Group) and Project Manager as too experimental, despite the fact that it has been used in Europe for close to a hundred years in industrial applications and more recently in many institutional projects by big name architects in all kinds of different countries and climactic conditions, we were forced to consider a safer option which involved using the ‘Profilit’ as a rain screen backed up by an industrial sandwich panel. This panel is comprised of two sheets of pre-finished, profiled sheet metal on either side of expanded polystyrene foam insulation (bead board), which was quite inexpensive and could be made three storeys high. Even this more conservative approach proved impossible to sell. At this point, with the working drawings almost complete, we were required to explore other options. We looked at a number of different ideas including the mesh and presented these to our client. We managed to get them excited about the mesh and used the fact of not having to redesign the backup wall (sandwich panel) to tip the balance. We then proceeded to develop the details and a pattern of windows behind the mesh with selected views of the city and issued revisions as part of an addendum. This is how the idea evolved into what became the constructed façades.

Tom: What is the cost of this wall system/detail relative to some alternatives that may, or may not, have been considered? Mitch: The backup is very inexpensive which offsets the premium associated with the stainless steel mesh. We believe that it represents a valid (perhaps even clever) architectural approach to conceptualizing and affording a somewhat exotic and certainly innovative cladding layer or finish in an ever-challenging marketplace of lower construction budgets and ridiculously short project schedules. Architect of Record: Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects / Fichten Soiferman et Associes Architectes, Architects in Joint Venture Partners in charge: Marianne McKenna, Jacob Fichten Project Architects: Mitchell Hall, Robert Lacoste Local Supplier: W.S. Tyler Canada of St. Catherines, Ontario. Manufacturer: Haver & Boecker of Germany

Mitch: As the conceptual surface of scientific research, the use of glass both inside and outside the project was a deliberate exploration of not only its potential applications and properties, but also of its ability to refract, reflect, distort and transmit light and movement. As an extension of the glass concept, the mesh is the mutable skin of the scientific instrument, or research box, which has the ability to filter and reflect light and human activity. During the day it is a highly reflective surface, which at night, dissolves to reveal an abstraction of a random array of the elemental building blocks of DNA - an architectural genetic code concealed in the window pattern.

lation de mousse de polystyrène (planche à baguette), ce qui s’est avéré assez économique et pouvait être monté sur trois étages. Même cette approche plus conservatrice s’est avérée impossible à vendre. À ce point-ci, dû au fait que les dessins d’exécution étaient presque complétés, nous avons dû explorer d’autres 22

On Site review

options. Nous avons examiné bon nombre d’idées différentes, y compris la maille, et nous les avons présentées à notre client. Nous avons pu susciter son intérêt au sujet de la maille et, comme facteur déterminant, nous avons mentionné le fait que nous n’aurions pas à reconcevoir la contre-cloison (panneau-

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Jacob Fichten @ FSA

Tom: Does the mesh reflect the original concept for the project?

Rob Kastelic

sandwich). Nous avons alors procédé à l’élaboration des détails et d’un motif de fenêtres à l’arrière de la maille, y compris certaines scènes de la ville. Nous avons aussi émis certaines révisions dans le cadre d’un addenda. Voici comment a évolué l’idée de ce qui est devenu les façades édifiées.

Tom : Est-ce que la maille vient refléter le concept d’origine de ce projet? Mitch : En tant que surface conceptuelle d’un immeuble de recherche scientifique, l’utilisation du verre des deux côtés, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur, du projet représentait une exploration délibérée des applications

possibles et des propriétés, mais aussi de sa capacité à réfracter, refléter, distorsionner et transmettre la lumière et les mouvements. Comme extension du concept du verre, la maille est une peau muable de l’instrument scientifique, ou de la boîte de recherche, qui possède la capacité de filtrer et de refléter la lumière et

l’activité humaine. Pendant le jour, il s’agit d’une surface hautement réflexive, tandis que le soir, elle se dissout pour révéler une abstraction d’un réseau aléatoire de blocs élémentaires de construction d’ADN – un code génétique architectural caché dans le motif des fenêtres. 


On Site review



adeline Kahn’s character in the movie Young Doctor Frankenstein clearly appreciates the benefits of stitching together of parts from disparate sources to enhance the whole: she spontaneously breaks into song as Frankenstein’s monster reveals what about him is truly monstrous. It is no accident that Frank O Gehry Associates is located under the shadow of the Hollywood sign. As with the illusions in film, their work can be seen as the stitching of space and time and can be understood in terms of the philosophical method of Gilles Deleuze. Gilles Deleuze has defined philosophy as the creation of concepts. His methodology is to conceptually fold space and time in such a way as to align a concept in four dimensions creating a plan(e). This is what is described A Thousand Plateaus. Any creation is made up of a collision of many concepts, that have their genesis in many different places, and come from all four directions. In contrast is the archaeology of Michel Foucault who documents events in conventional space and historic time to reveal causation. Both Deleuze and Foucault hold a mirror to culture, but for Deleuze it is more the mirror of Through the Looking Glass. He deals with space/time as personal and relative, while Foucault deals with the social construction of space/time. Free ranging and creative, Deleuze does not use conventional categories to define his areas of research or conventional notions of causation to create his connections but recognizes the contingency and complexity of culture in his analysis of artifacts. Alice in Wonderland is treated as significantly as the works of Leibniz and Nietzsche. Creating a new concept requires a radical use of language, in effect a new language and suggests that we read a work like we listen to music, letting it envelope us. A work’s value is not to be measured by any traditional notion of truth but by the number of connections it creates. Frank Gehry works with an architecture of meaning that respects today’s culture and historic context while achieving the ideal of the modern, jugendstil and art nouveau: One does not have to be a member of an elite to enjoy his work, nor is it based on intellectual dogma. Like Deleuze, he has created a new language, by pushing conventional language, and as with

Le maillage de l’espace et le temps


e personnage interprété par Madeline Kahn dans le film Le jeune docteur Frankenstein vient clairement illustrer les avantages de coudre des pièces disparates les unes aux autres dans le but d’améliorer le tout : elle s’élance spontanément à chanter au moment où le monstre Fran24

On Site review

The Stitching of Space/Time in the work of Frank Gehry Ward Egan Deleuze, many see only the form and not the content, the style or the meaning. This leads, unfortunately, to the production of any number of Frankenstil monsters. Gehry’s buildings reveal themselves as the synergistic sum of parts, where each part stands in relation to the others. They are not simply visual collage nor temporal montage, but a stitching of space and time, and as in Frankenstein’s monster, the stitches intentionally show. In his renovations and additions, the voice of after resonates with the voice of before, each clear and distinct without displacement from the space or time of their origin. This is clearly after, that is clearly before, and their complex harmony forms an electric now. Let me illustrate what I mean by going back to Gehry’s house in Santa Monica. The original renovation took place in the late seventies and can be seen as a workshop and laboratory for Gehry’s ideas, particularly important prior to his use of CATIA modelling software. The house was expanded by adding a second skin around the first. The living room grew into the existing dining space and a new dining space was added, along with a new kitchen and breakfast nook in the expanded skin area. The original skin is maintained, sometimes peeled back to reveal the framing. The original bay window sticks into the new kitchen. A new skylight lights the kitchen and the expanded living room through this bay window. When the original house was built, kitchens were hidden as service space, but since kitchens have become the social centre of the house, Gehry’s new kitchen is stitched onto the old dining room at the bay window, keeping the traditional relationship, while updating it by actually making it the living room. A new dining room is now connected to the kitchen to the west, a breakfast nook to the east. The skylight also responds to movement of the sun and living patterns —it is put in askew, bowing to

kenstein révèle ce qu’il a de si monstrueux. Cet œuvre de Frank Gehry peut être perçu comme un maillage de l’espace et du temps en termes de méthode philosophique selon Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze vient replier l’espace et le temps de façon conceptuelle de telle façon à ce que ceux deux concepts s’alignent en un concept à quatre dimensions, créant ainsi un plan, que l’on décrit comme Un

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Kitchen/Dining Renovation to Gehry’s Santa Monica house, 1979.

millier de plateaux. Toute création est réalisée à partir d’une collision de divers concepts qui retracent leur genèse à partir de différentes origines et qui viennent des quatre directions. Les immeubles de Gehry se révèlent comme étant une somme synergique de diverses pièces, où chacune d’entre elles se tient en relation aux autres. Ils ne sont pas simplement un collage visuel ni

un montage temporal, mais plutôt comme un maillage d’espace et de temps et, tout comme dans le cas du monstre Frankenstein, on laisse paraître, intentionnellement, les points de couture. La rénovation de la maison de Gehry à Santa Monica peut être perçue comme étant le laboratoire de ces idées. La maison a été agrandie en ajoutant une deuxième couche enveloppant la

to produce an electric, spatial complexity that approaches the complexity of cultural experience, or perhaps, even, the dynamics of a hockey game.  Ward Eagen teaches new media at Ryerson, in Toronto.

F O Ge h r y A ss o c i at e s

Laboratory lessons learned in his house have been carried forward by Gehry to less modest projects. Before and after is clear in renovations but we have to take a larger perspective in projects which insert new buildings into existing urban fabric, such as his NationaleNederlanden building in Prague, or less obviously, the relationship of his Guggenheim to historic Bilboa. Here, Gehry takes the stitching of space and time to another, self-recursive level by producing a conceptual time line with in the project — the building contains a temporal montage of starting points in the design process. Gehry starts a project with the usual programmatic and functional relationship diagrams, which develope into scaled plans, but then each individual space is generated independently from internal requirements, and sequentially based on the preceding space in a sort of game where the context is dynamic. A space is then stitched to its preceding, adjacent space, as if that space were already in existence. The project gathers its form together dynamically over time from multiple individual forces. Two-dimensional relationships are developed centrifugally, and the threedimensional objects then grow centripetally from these plans, stitched in the space of their declared impacts and collisions. The technology that Gehry uses scans traditional three dimensional design models and

ward eagen

brings them into Catia drawings, bills of lading, etc. This supports a process that has to do more with medieval accretion than modernist manifesto. And, what we love about complex, medieval space is preserved through the use of the most modern technology, effectively and efficiently. Frank Gehry’s process, as revealed in his work, deals with the relativity of the four dimensions and resonates with Gilles Deleuze’s folded space and time where wildly different conceptual plan(e)s are aligned. Gehry stitches space to time in his renovations, urban interventions, and self-recursively in his freestanding projects

the morning but also marking difference. The stitching on of this skylight is defiantly unapologetic. So, the new skylight is stitched onto the new kitchen. The new dining, kitchen and breakfast space is stitched onto the old living, dining and kitchen space. The new space acknowledges the old in a temporal montage of meaning, both existing and new construction are celebrated, and a harmony of place is created.

CATIA study of the external skin, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

première. Le nouvel espace de la salle à manger, de la cuisine et de l’espace réservé au déjeuner est cousu à l’ancien espace réservé au salon, à la salle à manger et à la cuisine. Ce qui en ressort vient reconnaître l’ancienne structure en un montage temporal où tant la construction existante que la nouvelle sont mises en valeur. Quant à la relation entre son propre Guggenheim et à

l’historique Bilboa, Gehry transpose le maillage de l’espace et du temps au même niveau autorécursif en produisant une ligne temporelle conceptuelle au sein de ce projet – l’immeuble démontre, du point de vue du processus de conception, un montage temporal de points de départ. Gehry amorce un projet avec des diagrammes programmatiques habituels, qui se développent en

plans à l’échelle. Puis, chaque espace est généré de façon indépendante, en ayant recours aux exigences internes, et est axé de façon séquentielle sur l’espace précédent en une sorte de jeu où le contexte continue à se développer. Un espace est cousu à l’espace antérieur adjacent, comme si cet espace existait déjà. Le projet rassemble ses formes de façon dynamique au

fil du temps à partir des forces individuelles diverses. Les relations bidimensionnelles sont développées de façon centrifuge, et les objets tridimensionnels qui naissent de façon centripète à partir de ces plans sont cousus dans le cadre de l’espace de leurs impacts et collisions déclarés. 


On Site review


1 Nature is the secret order of things, which requires only the essence

parks - are sentimental appliques of pastoral art, neatly stitched into the grid of the city. Like the scenic curtains from which our current view of landscape is taken, the grass is never long, the trees never too large, and the shrubs always clean, tight and numerical. Maintenance-free and as real as the flowers of the city which are never picked, but purchased — the urban landscape is scentless, nameless and ultimately rootless.

Our cities and buildings have come to reflect a perception of nature, as it should be — symmetrical, inflexible, ordered, and predictable. To be uncivilized is to live illegibly in the cluttered wilderness of nature, dressed in the skins of animals, the ragged remnants of manmade cloth hanging like the tattered ends of rationality. Against this, the vast cities we have created cover the earth like a fabric, an unwavering, unending fabrication. It is an intelligence of hard, opaque disjunctive pieces in tight, complex displays of designs and motifs, encased in grids. The metaphor is obvious. The manmade environment is a Cartesian quilt of surfaces.

There is no here, no site specificity in the landscape of the city. We stand in the snow and stare through the glass at the pieces of gigantic palm trees sewn (at great environmental cost) into a mid Atlantic skyline and never say,’Isn’t that sad.’ We hurry by oaks buttonholed into tiny concrete boxes and never cry bitter tears. There are no roots in the urban landscape because there is no origination. Like fabric, the landscape exists on the surface, gridded, denatured, sterile. Seeding, fruiting, growth and decay all denied, the urban landscape takes on the properties of a commemorative urn, a sputtering eternal flame kind of presence, fed by petroleum, more’4ever green’ than green, more funereal than real. In the city, landscape is the death of nature, and the death of our perception of it. Save for one spark of beauty.

of our pure and rational thought to make itself truly understood. We believe our survival depends on the success of this search for order. However, every supposed revelation of pattern has become for us, in turn, a compelling pattern for remaking the world around us. In the end we have been conditioned by the conditions we have created.

Upon it, the scissored, precise, regulated landscape (no longer nature) is serrated to the geometries of architecture and artifact. Trees are the green’pieces’ of landscape sewn between the grey and blue ’pieces’ of concrete and asphalt. Any foundation planting, including the largest - city

Sewing the landscape

c h r i s ti ne ma i le

Christina Maile

Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) at a hydrant on Kings Plaza Station.

Rapiéçage du paysage


os villes et nos immeubles sont devenus le reflet d’une perception de la nature comme étant symétrique, inflexible, ordonnée et prévisible. Le fait d’être non civilisé est de vivre de façon incompréhensible dans l’amas du fouillis de la nature. En guise de contradiction, les vastes 26

On Site review

villes ont été créées pour couvrir la terre comme un tissu, notamment une fabrication inébranlable sans fin. Il s’agit d’un concept organisé de pièces dures, opaques et serrées, au milieu de démonstrations de conceptions et de motifs, encapsulés dans des grilles. La métaphore est évidente. L’environnement fabriqué par l’homme est un piquer cartésien

Sewing Issue 8 2002

de surfaces. Il n’existe aucune spécificité au paysage d’une ville. Nous nous tenons debouts dans la neige et voyons au-delà du verre pour regarder les pièces d’énormes palmiers cousues (à un énorme prix environnemental) au profil d’une ville du Moyen-Atlantique et nous ne nous disons jamais:

« Que c’est triste ». Nous défilons à grande vitesse à proximité des chênes cramponnés dans des boîtes de béton et nous ne versons jamais une seule larme amère à leur sujet. Comme le tissu urbain, le paysage urbain existe en surface, quadrillé, dénaturé et stérile. Dans la ville, le paysage représente la mort de la nature, à l’exception d’une

2 For like a quilt, the surfaces of the city, its structural pieces, are not

seamless. They must all meet in adjacencies. No material melts into another continuously. Old concrete against new, asphalt against steel curb against stone, there remains a void, a space, a joint, an interstice between the two materials. These joints, as do the materials they buffer, eventually open as the result of successive waves of weathering. Form follows tempo. Asphalt unravels, concrete frays, metal shrinks, and glass tumbles. Edges are created. And into these small openings, the hereness of the city, the wild and crazy roots and shoots of nature break forth, ripping open ever-larger seams. The bed has assaulted the quilt. (Innuendo intended).

christine maile

Sex, sex, sex, rampant seeding, fruiting, pushing, shoving, thrashing, tumbling, clasping, unclasping, bursting forth. The edges of the city that are everywhere are alive with a voracious beauty, possessed only by the wind, the sun, and the rain. Enemies of good design and moral order, they are not the right plant in the right place. Instead they boldly and promiscuously push themselves outside of, inside of, on top of, and all around the gates of paradise (the walled Garden of Eden). They are called many names - mulleins, lambsquarters, eleusine indica, mugwort, goosefoot, and soldago, to name a few. But the name everyone knows them by is …weeds.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a weed as an economically useless plant of wild, obnoxious growth and unsightly appearance whose presence either excludes the growth of more valuable plants or contributes to the disfigurement of the place. That is the landscape definition of a weed. But not mine. Rather these incredible beings, these shimmering threads of stubborn desire are the city’s true connections to the fertile, chaotic bed of organic creativity lying just beneath us. The fabrication of the mind, this urban fabric is, in fact, rent by a deeper fabrication. An earthy, prowling subconscious whose initial manifestation — a bumpy rosette of tough knotted stems — represents the continuing presence of nature’s irrational behavior. And our failure to destroy it. To weed: to free from something noxious, offensive or superfluous. It is not surprising, then, that weeds are described as growing in disturbed areas. For we are greatly disturbed. They dare invade our gridded neighborhoods, unthread the brocade of our tidy streets and gardens. Hanging around at all hours of the night they just , it seems, appear overnight. And now in broad daylight, there they go, strutting their berries, wiggling their tiny flowers, their erect panicles indiscriminately casting seeds to the winds. They colonize every raveled edge, every joint, rooting themselves in, uprooting our stuff out. It’s criminal. Call the cops. Weeds should be charged with disturbance of the ’piece’.

Goosegrass (Elusine indicaa) at the corner of Washington and Desbrosses Streets.

seule étincelle de beauté car, tout comme un piquer, les surfaces de la ville, ses pièces structurales, ne sont pas uniformes. Elles doivent toutes se joindre en contiguïté. Du vieux béton contre du neuf, de l’asphalte contre une courbe d’acier, blottie contre de la pierre. Il reste un vide, un espace, un joint, un espace interstitiel entre les deux matériaux. Ces joints,

tout comme le matériel qu’ils protègent, s’ouvrent éventuellement à force d’être exposés aux vagues des intempéries. L’asphalte se défait, le béton s’use, le métal rétrécit et le verre s’effondre. Des bordures se créent. C’est dans ces petites ouvertures que les racines sauvages et les rejetons de la nature prennent racine, déchirant ainsi davantage ces fissures.

Le massif vient ainsi agresser le piquer. Du sexe, du sexe et encore du sexe, des semences déchaînées, la mise à fruit, ce poussage, ces bousculades, ce tassage, ce culbutage, ces étreintes, ces dégrafements et ces éclatements. Les bourgs de la ville que l’on retrouve partout sont vivants

avec leur beauté vorace, possédés seulement par le vent, le soleil et la pluie. Ennemis de toute bonne conception et de l’ordre moral, elles ne sont pas les bonnes plantes au bon endroit. Au lieu, elles se propulsent avec audace et promiscuité vers l’extérieur, l’intérieur, par-dessus et tout autour des portes du paradis (le Jardin d’Éden enclot de murs). On les connaît Sewing

On Site review


3 To ‘wear weeds’ at one time referred to a fabric especially woven (wede

tree in its glass. That’s how nature should be, forever indebted, grateful to us for life, no matter how mean, brutal, shallow, sterile and short. Yet here where weeds grow, what nascent beauty is endlessly being embroidered beneath the curling edges of asphalt at our feet; what forests contained beneath the mantle of these small tough leaves; what sudden valley, what shadowed stream? Weeds are the memories of earth. It is their presences, furtive, unwanted and denigrated which connect us, tie us to the natural world, and undo in endless filagree the hard edges of chaos we have created. The cracks of the city are the furrows for their lessons; weeds, persistently ‘weaving the weeds’ of exquisite permutation, of place, of immortality. We are proletarians subjugated to the opiate of rational order, delirious with geometry, forever coming apart at the seams. Weeds are the warnings against the catastrophe of perception which continues to generate the monoculture known as the man-made environment. If we continue to see them as destroyers of our order, if we fail to recognize in them the fate of our own shining beauty, the darkness will continue to descend over our wounded eyes. 

c h r ist in e m aile

- to weave) and worn to indicate an occupation, a situation or a position. Now it defines only mourning. And while that meaning may resonate visually in the somber straight lines of the urban landscape, the key word is weaving. For what we see in the homonymous weeds is a testimony to their occupation as healers, as weavers of green and fulsome blankets which spread stitch by stitch, warp by woof to cover the beaten and broken remains of the natural world. They mend, no, they amend all that is missing in our geometries — spontaneity, authenticity, growth. Whether we come up on them as small gestures of grassy stems with fuzzy ends, or bold sweeps of branches coruscating against stony skies, what we truly come upon, long hidden and obscured by culture, is the genius of the place. The absolute hereness of weeds. Not the here denoted, or the here designed. Not the here of utility, or of property. But that inexhaustible, nimble hereness which arises from a particular, fortuitous swirl of sun, rain, wind and edge. The hereness that creates place. It is the here whose center is not I-standing-here. It is the here where our carefully-hemmed natural order is undone, where unloosened the knots which keep us bound to the things we have created disappear. And it for this reason we fear this or that place where weeds grow, and grind back into dust or concrete their unbidden, heedless therapy. The oak in its box, the palm

Ailanthus altissima at 6th Ave & 22nd Street.

Christine Maile is a landscape architect and artist in New York City. At the Gas Station: Mollugo verticillata Ailanthus altissima Elusine indica Veronica filiformus Gledstia triacanthos Kochia scoparia


Carpet weed Tree of Heaven Goosegrass Slender Speedwell Honeylocust Kochia

On Site review

sous plusieurs noms – molènes, choux blancs, pieds de poule, artémises, chénopodes et solidagos, pour n’en nommer que quelques-unes. Par contre, tout le monde les connaît comme des mauvaises herbes. À ces endroits où les mauvaises herbes abondent, on remarque cette beauté naissante qui est brodée de façon incessante sous

Sewing Issue 8 2002

nos pieds, sous les bordures courbées de l’asphalte sous nos pieds. Quelles seraient ces forêts contenues sous cette cape de petites feuilles robustes, ces vallées soudaines ou ces ruisseaux ombragés? Les mauvaises herbes sont les mémoires de la terre. C’est cette présence furtive, insolite et dénigrée qui nous lie au monde naturel et qui vient dénouer ce filigrane

sans fin de ces bordures robustes que nous avons créées. Les fissures de la ville sont les fissures de leur apprentissage; ces mauvaises herbes tissent, de façon persistante, cette permutation exquise de l’espace et de l’immortalité. 



Andrew King and Angela Silver There’s something about having Angela’s work sitting in the same space that I work in and that we also live in. After the e z house which was all about space — in fact space is what I’ve been working with for a long time, I was looking at a piece of Angela’s where she had squares of handmade paper lined up with a string running through the cntre of each sheet. You could move the sheets back and forth making them more or less dense. I thought this was interesting because it isn’t about space, but rather it’s about density, about the things that space is in between.

wa yn e g o d d a r d

working papers: thread house Maison conductrice ll y a quelque chose de symbolique derrière l’idée d’avoir le travail d’Angela au même endroit où je travaille, et où nous vivons. Après la maison e-z, qui avait trait à l’espace – en fait, l’espace est un concept sur lequel je travaille depuis longtemps; j’examinais une pièce sur laquelle Angela travaillait qui consistait en des pièces carrées de papier, enlignées de corde

qui passait au centre de chaque pièce, en aller-retour, ce qui les rendait plus ou moins denses.Vous pouviez déplacer les feuilles, d’un côté ou de l’autre, en les rendant plus ou moins denses. J’ai pensé qu’il s’agissait là de quelque chose de fort intéressant puisqu’il ne s’agit pas d’espace comme tel, mais plutôt de densité, au sujet des choses et de l’espace qui les sépare. Sewing

On Site review


project: the redevelopment of a 25’ infill site in a downtown Calgary neighbourhood. process: a cyclical process of collaboration and independent work between an architect and an artist. concept: an architecture of density. The visceral experience of rubbing up against the architecture, the datums, the hanging scrim, the shadows created by the light, the garden; the continual reminder of their tactility through feel, microscopic visual connection or the long view from above through the deconstruction and re-articulation of materials, and the layering of shadow, texture and surface. This densification of surface is the overall conceptual strategy for the house project. Compression and multiplication of tactile experience informs an architecture that is legible, complex and layered, through the use of four strategies: context, projection, surface and containment.

1. Le contexte. Bien que ce

studio, ou cette maison, respecte les questions ayant trait aux arrêtés et aux codes de base sur le site, ce qui est encore plus important est le répertoire de qualités tactiles et sensorielles que l’on retrouve actuellement dans la maison existante et sur le lot comme tel. La lumière se déplace à travers les fenêtres, cette maison a encore ses planchers d’origine 30

On Site review

de sapin de Douglas, un jardin entoure la maison de tous les côtés. On y retrouve aussi une façon particulière et amusante de retracer son chemin à la porte arrière, en passant par le jardin.

2. La surface. La surface

est conceptualisée de façon à ce qu’elle présente une série de plans qui vont d’est en ouest d’un côté à l’autre du site. Ces plans

Sewing Issue 8 2002

deviennent, à divers points, des éléments de façade, des encadrements à fenêtres et des épingles par lesquelles le jardin vertical (les vignes) peut se cramponner. L’intérieur se démarque de la même façon, en tant que plans définis d’est en ouest. Il en résulte une ligne de référence très dense, tant au niveau du plan et de la section, qui s’exprime en élément tectonique, parfois de façon plus

explicite que dans la construction.

3. Le confinement. Dans le

cadre de ce projet, l’architecture et l’art sont perçus comme faisant partie de la même expérience; un processus où le confinement, en tant que forme et animateur spatial, vient créer un environnement intensifié où l’éphémère peut exister et entrer en jeu. 

thread 1. context While this studio/house respects basic bylaw and code issues on the site, infinitely more important is a catalogue of the tactile and sensory qualities currently found in the existing house and lot. Light moves through variegated windows on the south, it has an original douglas fir floor, a garden surrounds the house on all sides, there is a particular and enjoyable way that one finds one’s way to the back door through the garden. The project, here, defines the broad scale envelope of the the house, a preliminary material and site strategy and some space and scale parameters.

way n e godda r d

thread 2. projection Experiments in light are essential to the fibre and photo work of the artist. The studio is a fly tower where large scrims and sheets of fabric are used for experiments in light and shadow. The thin three story space on the south side is both a working space and a dense section through the visceral experience — rubbing up against the architecture, the datums, the hanging scrim, the shadows created by the light, the garden, the continual reminder of their tactility through feel, microscopic visual connection and the long view from above. The windows reflect the type of work going on in the various spaces in the studio. A bridge which is the second floor, exists so that work can be done on larger pieces, and there is access to ta reference library and stair cabinetry along the north wall. The third level is a living/working area, with a large three story open space from which large pieces can be viewed. The floors on all levels are delicately slotted in strategic places so fabric and material can be moved from the basement workshop the the various levels. thread 3. surface Surface is conceptualized as a series of planes running east west across the site. The planes become, at various points, facade elements, window surrounds, pins on which a vertical garden (vines) could take hold. The interior is demarcated the same way, as strong planes running east west. The result is a very dense datum line condition in plan and section, where the datums are sometimes expressed as tectonic element, sometimes only explicit in the construction. thread 4. containment In this project architecture and art are seen as part of the same experiment; a process where containment, as form and as a spatial animator, creates an intensified environment where the ephemeral can exist and be engaged. The containment is box; a house, an installation. The ephemeral is object, art, ideology, program. The way they engage place as a whole is the manifestation of the ideological position, the interstitial, the reactive. Containment mediates between context and object. Object mediates between observer and containment. 

bio: Andrew King is an architect, Angela Silver is an artist, both in Calgary. This is their third collaboration, the first was an exhibition of visceral reflections on Berlin, the second, an installation for a national arts festival.


On Site review


jackson saunders.

La maison Hardouin

Hardouin House Kevin Alter


he Hardouin House joins new to old by sewing a contemporary building addition onto an older existing house. At the same time, the project is a counter-proposal to the twin immodesties of starter mansions that inflate the economic status quo, and radical architectural inventions that disrespect the established social milieu. This project responds to a 1930s neighborhood in transition to affluence. Pemberton Heights is an eight-block enclave, once modest and now extraordinarily expensive. Here, an unassuming 1934 house is changed to accommodate the demands of its newfound value, not merely through more square footage and superior fixtures, but also through the introduction of an unfamiliar aesthetic and a provocative delineation of space. The project called for the renovation and substantial expansion (1600 sq. ft.) of an existing (2,200 sq. ft.) two-story brick house, establishing a dialogue between the building and the surrounding context, and between the two distinct parts of the expanded house . The existing organization and character, the discrete, inward focus of the rooms and their original 1930’s spatial and material qualities is maintained. The expansion, by contrast, is characterized by openness, spatial continuity and abstraction. It is at the seam between the two parts that much of the energy of the project lies. 32

On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

La maison Hardouin vient marier l’ajout d’un immeuble contemporain à une plus vieille maison. Les rénovations et l’agrandissement substantiel (1 600 pi2) apportés à une maison de brique à deux étages (2 200 pi2) viennent établir un certain dialogue entre l’immeuble comme tel et le contexte environnant, et entre les

deux parties distinctes de la maison agrandie. Une généreuse cour arrière et deux arbres énormes et imposants viennent redéfinir cette maison familiale avec puissance. L’ajout se prolonge vers l’extérieur, au beau milieu de ce paysage. Le centre d’attention discret et introverti des pièces d’origine

The architectural intervention is revealed gradually. The typical binary condition of public/front, private/back is transgressed. weaving the two realms together. The public realm is drawn deep into the lot along the west side of the house, while a private garden slips to the front of the house on the east. The brick skin of the house is continued around the outer walls of the addition, with deeply raked joints serving as the seam that joins the old to new. A generous backyard and two significant trees (a box elder to the north, and a huge, meandering live oak emerging from the property to the west) provide a powerful circumstance for redefining this family home. Set out in this context, the addition is organized around a courtyard and designed to expand into this landscape. The axis of the original entry sequence is extended through the length of the addition: another seam between old and new. On this path, one finds a clear spatial narrative with the emergence of a contemporary architectural idiom. Multivalent views, continuity with neighbouring spaces and an unexpected sense of transparency and reflection characterize the new space. The different spatial characters in the old and new parts needed special attention to the permeable border between them. Along this line, translucent glass and acrylic screens emphasize the change in idiom, and

datant des années 1930 a été gardé, en contraste avec l’ouverture, la continuité spatiale et l’abstraction de l’ajout. La plus grande part de l’énergie dégagée par ce projet se démarque entre les lignes de ces deux parties. Tandis que les vieilles pièces sont perçues comme étant introverties et distinctes de l’extérieur, les

nouvelles pièces sont reliées au paysage par l’entremise d’une fine voile d’aluminium et de verre. L’ajout a des liens évidents avec le terrain et le ciel, les vues multiples et les limites imprécises. Bien que ce dernier serve d’enclave banlieusarde, la maison marque aussi une perspective d’une condition sociale de transformation. En

tant que tel, le projet est une contre-proposition à la double immodestie des nouvelles maisons bourgeoises qui viennent rehausser le statu quo économique et les inventions architecturales extrémistes qui manquent de respect envers le milieu social établi. 

are seen diagonally from the foyer. The long front to back axis is marked at the kitchen by built-in cabinets and a figural ceiling that slopes down to the seam between the old and new. This spatial compression introduced by the ceiling is lifted as it rises back up to a light-chimney where a cornerglazed clerestory offers views of trees and sky. Under this upsweeping ceiling is a 14-foot-long granite table that serves functionally as a kitchen counter, socially as a focus of family life and spatially as a centre from which the addition radiates.

A modern, open sensibility in the addition is a counterpoint to the contained space in the original building. Older rooms are experienced as internal — as distinct from the outside — while the new rooms are linked to the landscape through a thin veil of aluminum and glass. The addition has clear relationships to the ground and the sky, multiple views, and indistinct boundaries. While it serves its suburban enclave, the house also marks a perspective on a social condition in transformation, between the propriety of the front and the open engagement of the back.

Inside the addition itself, rooms intertwine with adjacent rooms and the outside — a further articulation of the seam. Floors, ceilings and materials that continue from inside to out. Floor-to-ceiling windows barely define a distinction between conditioned and unconditioned space. The yard, which so often is simply framed as other to a house, is integrally involved with the life inside the building. Untraditional construction enhances particular spatial qualities: steel provides the rigidity needed for open corners and expanses of glass; a seemingly frameless window emphasizes the massiveness of a limestone wall and the connection to the outside. A Vierendeel truss in the den lends an uncanny thinness to the roof and cantilevered courses of brick integrate lightness into the stoicism of the existing structure.

This approach leaves the ensemble decidedly unresolved, woven together but separate. As one passes between the old and new construction, the confluence of two distinct architectural characters gives rise to questions about the various ways in which architecture both challenges and reinforces the culture of which it is a part. The project’s inconspicuous prospect from the street and its integration of two fully respected architectural idioms offers an architectural solution that is critically engaged in both architectural and social dimensions. 

Kevin Alter teaches in Austin,Texas and has a practice, alterstudio, which has received several design awards in the United States.


On Site review


A Thread from Arachne: tensile architecture Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy


o see Velasquez’ Las Hilanderas (The Spinners) in Madrid was a memorable experience. The magnificent canvas depicts women wrapped in colorful fabric busy at work in their weaving studio. It also refers to a scene from the Greek myth of Arachne. Ovid tells us that Arachne, a woman from a modest family, had a rare gift for weaving. Arachne was so proud of her talent that she claimed her ability rivaled that of the goddess Athena, the patron deity of weavers. Hearing of this boast, Athena traveled to Lydia to confront the arrogant mortal. Assuming the disguise of an old peasant, she warned Arachne about the danger of her hubris. When Arachne dismissed the reproach, Athena in anger threw off her disguise and accepted the challenge. They would each create a tapestry. Athena’s tapestry warned of the dangers awaiting mortals who compared themselves to gods, while Arachne’s depicted scenes showing the rapes of mortal women by Jupiter, Neptune and Apollo. Athena was furious at the insult to the gods and the perfection of Arachne’s workmanship. She tore up the embroidered tapestry and beat Arachne’s face with the shuttle. Shocked, Arachne strangled herself with a noose. Athena took pity on her transforming Arachne into a spider; as such, she and her descendants practice the art of weaving forever. Although women have sewn, woven and embroidered, these practices have long been relegated to the minor arts. Our design firm is called Filum, the Latin word for thread, because we work with fabric and nets. In the world of tensile architecture fabric has been re-gendered, in architectural terms, by the employment of high-tech polymers, welding instead of sewing and computer assisted pattern-cutting, all of which are squarely in the tradition of men working as engineers or architects. Velasquez’s “Las Hilanderas” pulled us back to the origins of fabric architecture.

Un fil d’Arachné: architecture de traction


ans le cadre de ces deux projets, l’aspect de la couture en architecture est poussé vers des dimensions de plus en plus larges. Le premier, un projet millénaire pour le compte de la Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, consiste en une


On Site review

installation temporaire de 1 800 mètres cubiques, fabriqué à partir d’arbres de petit diamètre et de filets. Les arbres ont été écorcés et sciés en long afin de former de minces couches allongées. À l’aide de ce bois vert, on peut relever de fines courbes et, puisqu’il n’est pas possible d’utiliser de la colle sur du bois humide, nous avons

Sewing Issue 8 2002

procédé à relier les couches les unes aux autres à l’aide de milliers de clous, cousant littéralement les fines lames de façon à ce qu’elles adoptent leur courbature finale. Tout comme les fils d’un textile cousu à la machine à coudre, les clous ont percé le bois du dessus et du dessous, cousant ainsi les couches les unes aux autres de

façon serrée. En décalant et en chevauchant les couches, la pièce courbée qui en résulte peut se poursuivre de façon indéfinie. Ce qui en résulte : une structure légère, solide et flexible. Au sein de cette structure, les surfaces en mailles rappellent aussi l’idée de couture. On a pu recréer une géométrie d’ensemble en

The two projects here push sewing in architecture to larger and larger dimensions. The first, a millennial project for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in the Summer of 2000, was an 1800 cubic metre temporary installation, fabricated out of small diameter trees and netting. The trees were debarked and rip-sawn into long thin layers. With green wood one can make very tight curves; because glue cannot be used on wet wood, we stitched the layers together with thousands of nails, literally sewing the laminae into their final curvature. Like the threads in a machine-sewn textile, the nails pierced the wood from above and below, stitching the layers together tightly. By staggering and overlapping layers, the curved piece that results can continue indefinitely. The result is a light, strong and flexible framework.

trempant un modèle réduit en fil de fer dans une solution savonnée. Ces formes évanescentes qui déterminent la forme de chaque membrane ont été, par la suite, reproduites en filets à pleine échelle par Toshiko Horiuchi, un artiste de la fibre d’origine japonaise, qui a conçu et teint à la main chacun des filets. Les filets

ont ensuite été cousus à la structure de bois, puis un câble, agissant comme intermédiaire entre la surface de traction du filet et la structure de bois plié comprimé. Le deuxième projet est celui d’une tour pour le compte du Museum of Industry de Stellerton, en Nouvelle-Écosse. D’une hauteur de près de 30 mètres, cette tour

Within this framework, the net surfaces also called on ideas of sewing. The overall geometry was found by dipping a wire model into a soap solution. After each plunge, the complex forms of the minimal surfaces would stay suspended for a few seconds within and in between the loops of wire. To capture these fleeting forms so we could determine the patterns of the membrane, we made a larger model, crocheting the net. Toshiko Horiuchi, a Japanese fibre artist, made the full scale nets, designing and hand-dying each piece to create an ever-changing field of color. The nets were sewn onto the wooden framework, with a cable acting as an intermediary between the tensile surface of the netting and the compressive bent wood structure.

servira de point d’orientation et de plate-forme de visualisation le long de l’autoroute Transcanadienne dans l’une des plus vieilles régions industrielles du pays. Fabriquée d’acier, de câbles d’acier, de filet et de bois laminé, elle vient rendre hommage à l’artisanat de la province. 


On Site review


above: millenial project for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, detail. right: tower for the Museum of Industry, Stellarton, NS.

The second project is a tower for the Museum of Industry in Stellerton, Nova Scotia. Nearly 30 metres tall, it is intended as a wayfinder and viewing platform along the Trans-Canada in one of the oldest industrial areas of the country. Manufactured of steel, steel cable, net and laminated wood, it is a tribute to industrial artisanry in the province. The forms come from time-motion studies of workers, best known in the early twentieth century photographs of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. The Gilbreths made wire models of the traces left from bodies in motion. We used similar models to generate the five major vertical supports, and then extended cables to stabilize these supports, giving an impression of motion when seen from a passing car, or when on the stairs. The spider-like web made by the hundreds of cables create tensile surfaces hovering in space. Additional netting stretched between the steel cables are woven from steel and fiberoptic cable to make a luminous veil visible at night. These structures weave a story about Arachne and about women sewing their desire for freedom in space.  Sarah Bonnemaison and Christine Macy teach architecture at Dalhousie and practice under the name Filum in Halifax, NS.


On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Sheer equilibrium Mark West


he pliant nature of woven and sewn fabrics is a crucial determinant of the structural and physical approach that a fabric-formed concrete method of construction requires.

The structural capacity of any individual thread, any single stitch, is practically negligible, and yet these light fabrics are very powerful indeed. This power is the result of a collective resistance; hundreds of thousands of individual threads and stitches each tally up their own small and individually insignificant contribution. This collective strength is the result of a fabric’s capacity to disperse an applied load throughout its web of constituent threads. When you push a fabric formwork filled with wet concrete you can feel the hydrostatic pressure pushing back. Every force applied to the fabric changes the shape of the mold as a new equilibrium of forces is reached; each force has a commensurate geometry that attends its action. The final shape of the formed concrete is a precise three-dimensional inscription of the materials’ physical struggle towards equilibrium. The thin woven skin is open enough to bleed water from the wet concrete through the tiny spaces between the warp and weft of the fabric. In this way the membrane container becomes a giant, fine-grained filter gathering a rich cement paste at its surface. Individual threads and needle holes from sewn seams can leave a perfect impression. This delicacy is matched by a surprising toughness, a sturdy robustness. The very pliability of a fabric formwork endows it with its own kind of stability that does not rely on rigidity. A two story-high column of wet concrete, weighing more than a ton, can be rocked back and forth in its fabric mold with no ill effects. The giant oscillations will slowly die out as the column stabilizes itself (via vertical pre-tensioning) back into its original vertical position. Motion and deflections are now understood as part of a new tool kit. Deflection is embraced as a most intelligent form-giver, calling into play the deepest fundamentals of natural structural law. Quantitative analysis of these structures is a new phase of our research which will be supervised by Dr Aftab Mufti. Our engineering collaborators at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Engineering will begin the structural analysis of some of our fabric-cast funicular shell and vault panels in the new year, using Finite Element Analysis and predicting both the deflections of the loaded, prestressed fabric formworks and the structural behaviour of the panels. Dr Jose Gonzales of the U of M Department of Clothing and Textiles will be analysing the mechanical and structural properties of various formwork textiles. 


a nature souple du textile tissé et cousu est un facteur déterminant essentiel à l’approche structurelle et physique qu’exige une méthode de construction formée de tissus. La capacité structurelle de chaque fil, chaque maille, est pratiquement négligeable, mais toutefois, ces légers tissus sont très puissants. Cette puissance est le résultat

d’une résistance collective. Des centaines de milliers de fils et de mailles individuels ajoutent leur petite contribution, aussi insignifiante soit-elle. La force collective qui en résulte est due à la capacité du tissu à disperser la charge appliquée à travers la toile des fils qui le constitue. Cette fine peau tissée est suffisamment ouverte pour laisser

above: Araya Asgadom helping construct the installation at the Storefront for Art and Architecture at 97 Kenmare Street in New York City in 1992. right: festival bollard.

Mark West works with the Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology at the University of Manitoba.

saigner le béton mouillé par l’entremise des fines espaces entre les chaînes et les trames du tissu. Vue de cette façon, la membrane qui contient le tout devient un filtre à grains fins géant qui contient l’accumulation de pâte de ciment riche à sa surface. Les fils individuels et les trous d’aiguilles des coutures peuvent laisser une impression parfaite. 


On Site review


Collage dominated many areas of the twentieth century from Kurt Schwitters’ surrealist/suprematist compositions of bus tickets, scraps of colour and typography in the 1920s to Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s Collage City of 1968. Collage was all about the surprise conjunction, the unlikely pairing, one world view butting up against a different one creating a seam where irony, complexity and contradiction abide. The frisson at these edges and borders left the systems in collision largely unchallenged.

Weave on the other hand, is about simultaneity, the ability to hold two or more contradictory thoughts in the mind at once — nothing privileged. Debate does not occur at interesting but marginalised edges, it occurs throughout the whole weave, across and beneath its entire surface. Bruce Mau’s Life Style of 2000 is a manifesto of the weave as a paradigm to supplant collage as a working method.

The Weave: Life Style by Bruce Mau, among other things


hat is the connection between these words and their appearance in architecture as metaphors? Collage, in particular, is used to describe the unresolved collision of program parts and forms. As a metaphor, it is by now so tired that it has lost all the delicacy of the early fragile assemblages of scraps of material culture, and all the improvised inventiveness of bricolage. The sloppy use of metaphor and words as metaphors in architecture — collage, stitching, threading, sewing, weaving — anyone who actually does sew is well aware of how far from original meaning and action these terms have strayed. Sewing is, literally, a thin weak line attaching one thin sheet of material to another. This would be like using your clothesline to lash the back wall of the house to the side. Interesting and difficult. Much easier is to build a conventional corner with a reveal and call it a seam. How we use language to drive architecture is very revealing. Words and terms are used to pluck out certain concepts from the vast wheel of time and history when they serve current political thinking. Rowe presented the eccentric eighteenth century women’s penitentiary in Wurzburg by Speeth as a brilliant example of the collage of bits from the rattlebag of architectural history — something that really appealed to us towards the end of the bloody and ruthless stripping down that went on in the modern twentieth century. So what is it that appeals to us at the beginning of the twenty-first? Collage is linked semantically to partition, margins and edges, cultural mosaics, difference — all things vapourizing in the face of the global economy, global terrorism and cultural convergence. So, weave pops up. Interwoven as everyone in the world now is, weave as a concept that can be used in design has a certain philosophical currency.

Style de vie, par Bruce Mau, entre autres


e collage, qui a dominé plusieurs périodes du vingtième siècle, a surtout trait à une conjonction inattendue, à l’appariement saugrenu et à la collision d’une vision du monde contre une autre, créant ainsi un raccordement où l’ironie, la complexité et la contradiction 38

On Site review

se côtoient. Le frisson que l’on retrouve à ces rebords et à ces bordures laisse ces systèmes en collision largement non contestés. D’autre part, le tissage a trait à la simultanéité, à la capacité de retenir deux ou plusieurs pensées contradictoires de façon simultanée. Le débat n’a pas sa place si l’on pense aux rebords intéressants et marginalisés. Il se produit

Sewing Issue 8 2002

sandra haar, FUSE winter 1992

Stephanie White

Collage, all on the front, layered, essentially ironic, dependent on each fragment carrying references.

Weave, the back and the front connected, equal, flexible, continuous.

In the weave that is this article, let us look at current Canadian writing. Anne Michael’s Fugitive Pieces is an immensely fat narrative with many threads. In the space of two pages we have lived with the dying members of Scott’s expedition to the south pole, hid with Greek Jews in crawl spaces, walls, boxes; seen Jews shot at sea off Corfu, ‘paraselenas like smoke across a violet sky’, combatted scurvy with lemons and nasturtium seeds, made glue from nasturtium roots which thrive in volcanic soil, stood in a Toronto kitchen thinking about lost Bella. Dense? Very. Images tumble off the pages, never smudged, never lost in the crush of colours, voices, stories. This is, increasingly, a defining quality of Canadian writing — the number of simultaneous layers on each page, as un-manichæan as could possibly be, all in endless negotiated relationship with each other. This begins to also describe the deeply interconnected world, the good, bad and indifferent, rich, poor and everyone else, clean, dirty and recovering. Singular, discrete narratives (the Cold War, the First, Second and Third worlds, North-South, East-West) now seem overly deterministic, thin, simplistic. Perhaps we get the narratives we need.

plutôt à l’échelle du tissage, à travers et en dessous de sa surface tout entière. Le Style de vie de l’an 2000 de Bruce Mau est un manifeste du tissage, un paradigme au collage supplanté comme méthode de travail. Bruce Mau est un typographe, un concepteur graphique. Il travaille avec des lettres et des polices plutôt qu’avec des mots

et des phrases. Le fait de pouvoir lire entre les lignes a toujours représenté un genre de tissage. Mau nous force à lire entre les polices. Sa « Proposition immodeste » d’une revue de l’architecture rassemble en trois voix et en trois polices, la page qui couvre le premier plan, l’arrièreplan et le deuxième plan du sujet. Intitulée, d’après Mau, « un tissage

In the early 1980s Frank Stella stopped painting large geometric, striped canvases and began to construct large assemblies, hung on the wall, of patterned, painted steel set squares, protractors and french curves, scraps of off-cut steel, metal lath, foil. They were very shallow sculptures, but as they came out of a tradition of wall hung painting, can be seen as very think paintings. Paint marks became physical objects wedged, tacked, welded and hooked together to make a dense, woven set of layers enclosing space within its visually planar dimensions. Textiles have two sides. They are more than flat pattern and composition, they are woven according to a procedure to make something with a simultaneous and connected front and back.

Bruce Mau is a typographer, a graphic designer; he works with letters and fonts rather than words and sentences. Reading between the lines has always been a sort of weave, reading between the fonts is what Mau gives us to do. His ‘Immodest Proposal’ for an architecture magazine puts three voices, in three fonts, on the page covering the foreground, background and middle ground of the subject. Called a weave, the magazine is three simultaneous spaces laid out on the two-dimensional page. Thus the subject is both apparent and immanent, dimensioned by at least three layers. Thus the information about a subject becomes very thick.

Diagram of Mau’s strategy for an architecture magazine that interweaves three different voices, grounds, temporalities. See Life Style. pages 534-537.

Kastura, 5.5, two views. (1979). Mixed media on aluminum, metal tubing and wire mesh, 292 x 233.5 x 76.2 cm. see William Rubin. Frank Stella 1970-1987. New York: MOMA, 1987. pp 90-91

Life Style, the book: a box full of dense, interwoven material.

Thick description is familiar to readers of new anthropology. Rather than eliminating, refining, focussing and paring down to get an elegant theoretical equation, the subject is located deep within the tragic complexity of the world. Weave, thick and studded with stray colours and twigs like a rough highland tweed, supplanting the surface patterns of collage, asks for a more dense fabric of architecture. In a collage the blue Rizla package next to the found bus ticket remains itself with all its references intact. A weave slices the pieces, breaks them down and knits them into a new object. Conversation is not between objects, but within objects. The implications for the production of architecture turns attention completely away from the outside of the building, its shape, form, surface and the facades which enclose space, to the building as a solid, in the world as a solid, dense with material. Mau builds books. We must consider his books as speech, the form of the book as the vehicle for speech. He speaks in three fonts: Life Theories, Life Projects, Life Stories. These occur throughout, following their own internal logics. One of the projects, Laboratorium, took place at the Antwerp Museum of Photography in 1999. It was a book machine: a procedure, some templates, some masks and an unlimited supply of information laid out in two-page spreads. The making of a book becomes a performative act; pages are posted on the walls for all to read. In theory, anyone can do a book. The form, flexible but with certain rules and restraints such as the content is on a paper page of specific dimensions, folds information, images, text into a nice, dense package. The 625 pages of Life Style are such a package. Very thick with information only loosely clustered and not by narrative conventions, but by graphic form. », les dimensions d’une revue se répartissent sur au moins trois couches. Le sujet est, d’emblée, évident et immanent, et l’information devient très épaisse. Une épaisse description est familière aux yeux des lecteurs d’une nouvelle anthropologie. Plutôt que d’éliminer, de redéfinir, de faire la mise au point et d’éplucher le sujet pour en obtenir une équation théorique élégante, le

sujet est plutôt gardé dans la complexité tragique du monde. Les implications ayant trait à la production de l’architecture viennent complètement tourner l’attention de l’espace de pourtour de l’extérieur de l’immeuble, à l’immeuble comme un solide, dans un monde dense de matériel. Les immeubles sont de vastes entreprises

We build buildings. They are vast enterprises of communication with hundreds of people, materials from all over the world installed by builders from all over the world, of all ages, with families, histories, stories, loves and hates, politics and beliefs — all this is woven into each building. If we had the eyes to see and the vocabulary to describe, we would develop tools to make this dense atmosphere of human endeavour apparent. Parallel to the performative democracy of the book machine where the weft of individual observation is wrapped around the warp of the form and process, architecture is posted in the environment for all to see. We live in an information-hungry society: we want it all, then we can, ourselves, select what we need to know, rather than having it pre-selected for us. This is a real sea-change in how we think about the making of architecture.  de communication comptant des centaines de personnes, des matériaux de partout à travers le monde installés par des constructeurs de tous âges, ayant des familles, des antécédents, des histoires, des amours et des haines, des politiques et des croyances. Si seulement nous avions les yeux pour voir et un vocabulaire qui nous permette de décrire,

nous élaborerions des outils pour mettre en évidence cette atmosphère dense d’efforts humains. 


On Site review


Like Nothing Martha Townsend —at the bottom was something mysterious, a shape and no more. A great, enormous thing, like—like nothing. A huge, big—well, like a—I don’t know—like an enormous big nothing. Like a jar— from Piglet Meets a Heffalump by A.A. Milne


nspired by this piece of accidental philosophy, I decided to try to draw a nothing. Drawing is possibly the simplest recording technology we have—or the closest to nothing. With a 6B pencil and precut sheets of Arches paper, I began a series of drawings, which I eventually called Like Nothing. I begin each one with a swift simple line, closed to signal a shape. Then, very patiently I gather the shape into a form by filling it in. I am striving for uniform grey, agitated by the pencil’s strokes and the paper’s grain.

r ic h an r d- m ax t r e m blay

Most often I’ve made these drawings in the earliest part of the morning before the house wakes up, before the winter sun rises, pushing shadows out of things, reminding matter that it is still light’s subject. As a girls I learned to sew like all the women of my family. I had just finished a traditional patchwork quilt and lent the method to the service now of an unknown number of drawings. My private time was available to me in small parcels and I knew just how to piece them together. The unhurried and repetitive work was both comforting and yielding. I recently showed one hundred drawings in Montreal. The drawings could be seen as a contemplation of absence, or as shadows, or as immaterial stones but they take on substance when shown together. In the nexus of matter and space, presence and absence, light and shadow, Like Nothing is also like something. 

Martha Townsend is an artist living in Montreal.

Comme un rien…

— au fond, on a quelque chose de mystérieux, une forme et rien de plus. Une grande chose, énorme en fait, comme… comme un rien. Une énorme, gigantesque, comme, je ne sais pas, comme un énorme rien. Comme un bocal –A.A. Milne


nspirée de cette pièce de philosophie accidentelle, j’ai décidé d’essayer de dessiner un rien. Le 40

On Site review

dessin représente probablement la technologie de consignation la plus simple que nous ayons – ou ce qu’il y a de plus près. À l’aide d’un crayon de calibre 6B et des feuilles précoupées de papier Arches, j’ai commencé une série de croquis, en commençant par un simple trait, fermé de façon à signaler une forme quelconque. Puis, très patiemment, je la forme en la remplissant. Je tente d’obtenir un

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gris uniforme, agité par les traits du crayon et le grain du papier. La plupart du temps, je m’exécute à faire ces croquis aux petites heures du matin, avant que la maisonnée ne s’éveille. Le temps privé n’est disponible qu’en infimes parcelles et, tout comme le piquer, je savais exactement comment les rapiécer. J’ai déjà montré une centaine de dessins à Montréal. Bien

que ces dessins puissent être perçus comme une contemplation d’absence, ou d’ombres, ces roches sans matériel acquièrent une substance quelconque lorsqu’elles sont montrées ensemble. Au sein de ce nexus de la matière et de l’espace, de la présence et de l’absence, de la lumière et de l’ombre, « Comme un rien » se transforme en quelque chose. 

Adam’s Boat

Barbara Todd

r i c h an r d - ma x tr e mbl ay

bar bara t o dd

r o be r t ke zie r e


dam’s Boat is an 8-foot expanse of blue wool satin onto which has been stitched a dark semicircle of wool worsted. The colours are those of a night sky, and the shape is a bowl, a half moon, a boat, a hole. Delicate lines of spiral quilting hold the dark shape in place, mooring the boat, as it were, in a reassuring repetition of waves. This woolen textile is first an object offering protection, but it is not the quilted cover that I am used to. It is not a textile assembled piece by piece, but a large gesture which defies the traditional method and geometry for quilt tops, and more resembles painting in its expansive swing. This parting from the traditional method can be traced to the origin of the work. It came as if by accident through a postcard and a child’s drawing The postcard, an image of The Dream of the Wise Men by Gislebertus was taped to the dining room wall in 1994, when my young child made a tiny drawing at that table. Though I will never know, over time I have come to believe that the card influenced the drawing. Gradually this drawing worked its way into my mind, to the point where I came to consider it as an image on a large scale. It is not a picture of something, but it refers to something. The image’s history as a cover segues into its being a cover. More ‘quilt-like’ than the large open form, the small quilting stitches march predictably over the rectangular surface, like the litany of objects in the child’s bedtime story Goodnight Moon. I see Adam’s Boat as a gateway to a dream state. The work’s material language suggests sleep and security while its color and shape invite the liminal realm where certainties are rare. From this quilt’s physical warmth we can venture into the darkest night. 

Barbara Todd is an artist living in Montreal.

Le navire d’Adam


e navire d’Adam est une étendue de 8 pieds de laine satinée bleue sur laquelle a été cousu un demi-cercle noir en tissu de pure laine peignée. Les couleurs sont celles d’un ciel de nuit, et la forme est celle d’un bol, une demi-lune, un navire, un trou. Des lignes délicates matelassées en spirale tiennent la forme foncée en place, amarrant le navire, pour ainsi dire, en une répétition rassurante de

vagues. Ce textile de laine est tout d’abord un objet représentant une offre de protection, mais il ne s’agit pas du piquer auquel je suis habituée; il ne s’agit pas d’un textile assemblé pièce par pièce, mais plutôt d’un geste étendu qui ressemble à un tableau dans son amplitude gonflée. Cet écart de la méthode traditionnelle peut être retracée à l’origine de cet œuvre. Il s’est produit comme par acci-

dent par l’entremise d’une carte postale ou du dessin d’un enfant. La carte postale, une image du rêve des trois rois mages de Gislebertus, a été collée au mur de la salle à manger en 1994, lorsque mon enfant a fait un petit dessin à la table. J’en suis venue à le considérer comme une image à grande échelle. Il ne s’agit pas d’une image de quelque chose, mais plutôt d’une image qui se réfère à quelque chose.

La langage matériel du navire d’Adam insinue le sommeil et la sécurité tandis que sa couleur et sa taille nous invitent dans un monde liminal rare. À partir de la chaleur physique de ce piquer, nous pouvons nous aventurer dans la plus sombre des nuits. 


On Site review


2. Curtains, curtain walls and technical skins

Ask her what she makes— reflections on architecture and sewing Jill Bambury

1. Being in Rome I was in Rome when I heard about this topic, architecture and sewing. Rome is one of the haute couture capitals of the world, where ever-fleeting fashions are photographed against timeless classical and Renaissance buildings. Medieval ground floor shops in these buildings are often occupied by tailors who work on a single sewing machine, doors open, upholstering, tailoring and mending clothes. Scaffolding abounds in the historic centre of the city, accommodating restoration workers. It moves periodically from building to building, poetically transforming each with a translucent veil of green mesh. The mesh is literally stitched into place; lines are looped through grommeted holes in the fabric and threaded around a steel and wood armature. In the past few years some of the more loosely woven scaffold fabrics have been replaced with a fabric of finer grain and less transparency, stretched tautly over the scaffold and printed with advertisements. These match the scale of the buildings of Rome — gorgeous human specimens sip elixirs, wearing beautiful garments, theatrically lit at night. When I came across a block-long exquisite white tent my first thought was that Roman scaffolding really is an art form. Closer, the billboard indicated that this tent veiled the construction site for Richard Meier’s New Roman Church. This scaffold and wrapping was classic Meier. The interview was aired on CBC’s Midday when Gehry came to Canada to receive the RAIC Gold Medal in 1998. 2 Lupton, Ellen with Jennifer Tobias, Alicia Imperiale and Grace Jeffers. Skin: Surface, Substance and Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002. 3 Schittich, Christian. In Detail: Building Skins: Concepts, Planning, Construction. Munich: Birkhauser Edition Detail, 2001. 1

Bundled scaffold sheathing: semi transparent, green, grommetted. Rome, 2002.


On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Do the techniques belonging to sewing inspire certain architects in their buildings? From a technical perspective, sewing is a craft which uses fabric, cut to a pattern, to cover a structure, a body, a window, a piece of furniture. The technical idea of sewing opens a discussion of lightweight flexible materials, cut to cover the skeleton of a building. An example here is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a building with an irregular armature covered with a thin metal cladding. This construction became possible when the office borrowed designers and design software from the aerospace industry. Although aerospace work covers an armature with a perfectly fitting skin, these techniques are not quite sewing. The development of the curtain wall, named after a sewn entity, certainly had huge implications for the freeing of the plan and ultimately, the freeing of architectural space. Diaphanous skins of metal, glass and fabric in buildings provided unprecedented realizations of transparency and translucency, even allowing buildings to breathe. Building materials continue to undergo architects’ experimentation to make them imitate fabric — the classical construction of drapery in stone begun by the Greeks and Romans, reinstated in the Renaissance and continued by sculptors in the nineteenth century continues. The exquisite plywood file cabinet doors (below) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design by Office dA both mimic and re-present drapery in yet another material., this time using computer technology to make a wooden curtain. These examples contribute to the tailoring of buildings, making them more fashionable and new. But do they really connect architecture with sewing? Although the Guggenheim Museum borrows its technology and CATIA software from the aerospace industry, it does illustrate a homologous relationship between the covering of an organic building skeleton with a skin and the covering of a human body with sewn fabric. While Gehry says, ingenuously, that he barely knows how to turn on a computer, he claims that the cameleon-like skin at Bilbao came about because he had a sample of the titanium cladding material in his office and was fascinated by its luminosity.1 When he took the cladding sample outside, it changed from silver to gold depending on sun angles and rain. This kind of fascination with beautiful materials tempers the discussions of technologically challenging buildings — transparency, translucence and texture are terms familiar to sewers, tailors and fashion designers. Several recent publications illuminate the conceptual, technical and artistic obsessions with the fabric of building surfaces. A conference at the University of Texas at Austin called Skins explored all aspects of the skins of buildings. Skin: Surface, Substance and Design covers padding and protection, warps and folds, horror and biotechnology, artificial light and artificial life.2 More technical aspects are discussed in Christian Schittich’s book In Detail: Building Skins: Concepts, Planning, Construction.3 Do any of these discourses grounded in architecture and technology pay homage to the humble art of sewing? If so, such relationships are only loosely basted.

The Lazlo Files, Graduate School of Design at Harvard, by Office dA.

3. Sewing and architectural fashion

4. Domestic sewing — defining cultural space

Relationships between architecture and fashion are more tightly stitched. To pull a thread from the discourse, a symposium on architecture and fashion at Princeton University in 1991 (also a book, Architecture in Fashion4 ) discussed fashion, gender, modernity and scenography as well as scaffolds and draperies. The year after the book was published, Mark Wigley published White Walls Designer Dresses: the Fashioning of Modern Architecture.5 In 2000, Martin Pawley wrote Fashion + Architecture.6 The relationship between fashion, architecture and commodity can be found in the work of Canadian designer Bruce Mau, whose book S,M,L,XL written with architect Rem Koolhaas, retails at $400 US.7 Mau’s most recent book Life Style is equally controversial.8 A review by Charles Decker on’s website says — All things considered, this major book will leave some readers furious at Bruce Mau’s audacity and others aghast at his cross-disciplinary influences. I doubt that there’s anyone working in design today who has had quite his impact. This book is a beautifully realized celebration of that impact, and very much worth the wait. By the way, Phaidon has produced this book with eight different and gorgeous fabric covers. Yours might differ from our rather inadequate representation on the site. As with S, M, L, XL, I predict that some day all of them will be (ahem) “coollectors’” items.

The problem with even thinking about the relationship between architecture and sewing is that few of us know very much about sewing. Some of us can sew on a button, or use a needle and thread to hem a sleeve; others may remember when a sewing machine sat in some corner of the house The fact is that sewing is a craft tradition which, for the most part, has been removed from our contemporary life. The fact is also that the place of sewing has shifted from the sewing room in the back of the house to the workshops of Asia and Latin America. Large chain stores in Canada and the United States sell extremely well made garments produced in Macau, Honduras, China and Turkey. While sewing was once, in Canada and in the States, the most economical way to clothe a family, cover a bed or drape a window, now it is much cheaper to buy than to make.

To crown the medley, last year Rem Koolhaus wrote an extremely slick book featuring equally slick store and factory projects designed for the fashion house Prada in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Terrauova, Arezzo and Milan.9 It was published by Prada’s own publishing company Fondazione Prada Edizione and the publisher’s website highlights the work of OMA/AMO.10 This linkage between clothing fashion and architecture is in some places, an increasingly tight fit. Fausch, Deborah, Paulette Singley, Rodolphe El-Khoury and Zvi Efrat, eds. Architecture in Fashion. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 1991. 5 Wigley, Mark. White Walls Designer Dresses: the Fashioning of Modern Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press., c1995. 6 Pawley, Martin. Fashion + Architecture. New York: Wiley-Academy. Chichester, West Sussex : Wiley-Academy, 2001 7 Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau / edited by Jennifer Sigler, S,M,L,XL. Koln, Germany : Benedikt Taschen verlag, 1997. 8 Mau, Bruce, Bart Testa and Kyo MacLear. Life Style. London : Phaidon, 2000. 9 Koolhaas, Rem. Projects for Prada Part 1. Milan: Fondazione Prada Edizioni, 2001. 10 See 4

In one sense, the relationship between architecture and sewing is pinned together in a memory of past domestic life. In another, the relationship between architecture and sewing is associated with the appropriation of personal and public space by multinational brand label companies which trade in fashion and exploit the only real experts in sewing these days — underpaid, underage, female factory workers in developing countries. * My sister and I are sewing a red shirt for my daughter. She pins, I hem, we pass the scissors back and forth across the table. Margaret Atwood from ‘A Red Shirt’11 Sewing has traditionally been woman’s work, not connected with architecture, which was, traditionally, a man’s profession. Sewing is an integral part the centuriesold tradition of quilt making, often a collective project, where quilts represent important events such as a marriage or the birth of a child. In the church in New Brunswick where I grew up, womens’ groups make quilts as beautiful artifacts which are sold as a way of raising funds. The other benefit comes in the sense of community — women working on a piece together. Sewing can be an act of endearment when women make clothing for their family. Judy Chicago, an American artist whose latest work is currently opening in four major galleries in the United States, has deliberately chosen sewing as a medium to define the cultural space of women. Sewing is usually associated both formally and informally with the education of females and it takes place in domestic space. It becomes tailoring when it moves into the public realm and is practiced by men. But who, in our culture, really knows how to sew? And does it matter? Dunseath, Kirsty, editor. A Second Skin: Women Write About Clothes. London: The Women’s Press, 1998. 11

Spread in Life Style, by Bruce Mau, Kyo MacLear and Bart Testa, 2000.

Early twentieth century stone sculpture with drapery, Catholic Cemetery, Baton Rouge.


On Site review


5. How Sewing Enters Architecture

6. Growing up in New Brunswick

As a professor I give a survey to incoming students about what inspires them to study architecture. Many cite drafting, computer modeling and industrial arts teachers; a roughly equal number are inspired by art teachers. As in the Renaissance, the school of architecture in the twenty-first century still idealizes architecture as a discipline which combines art and technology. It has never occurred to me to include sewing teachers among the answer choices in the survey. And sewing has never been mentioned by the students under ‘other reasons/interests which led me to pursue architecture’. Some of the women students, even in the late nineties, still had to take sewing in home economics classes as a gender-based, no option alternative to drafting or industrial arts. “I made a pair of boxer shorts” one woman laughed, “but I don’t think that that has anything to do with architecture.”

I learned to sew from my grandmother, Marion McGowan Bambury, a career psychiatric nurse who served with the British Nursing Sisters in the Canadian Army in South Africa during the Korean War. Because she was, heroically, a career woman, I was not sure at the time where she had learned to sew. Because I was interested, she taught me. What I learned about sewing from her bridges almost one hundred years in my memory alone. Clearly, she was taught at an early age by women in her family. It was part of her education separate from her professional life. She taught me to make slipcovers and do upholstery out of beautiful elegant linens, velvets, damasks. By Grade 6 I knew how to take measurements, to estimate the quantities of material required and then to sew everything up. I was inspired. Inspiration was flattened in Grade 8. During the 1970 classes were divided by gender on two days of the week: girls studied home-economics (sewing and cooking), boys did shop (drafting and woodworking). I failed sewing. We had to make rudimentary articles of clothing— the almost obsolete apron and a skort (a skirt and shorts combo) out of polyester, marketed by the teacher because it was inexpensive and needed no ironing.12 I continued to sew throughout high school and undergraduate school and didn’t think about it explicitly until I was in architecture school. At TUNS (now Dalhousie) in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, women were a minority. There was a radical air about the place with student strikes and much discussion about the quality of our education. Most of the women in my class sewed their own clothes. We were like students at the Bauhaus making costumes; ours were highly geometric minimalist pieces, sketched out on paper like our architectural drawings, without even thinking it was unusual. Even at Cambridge I carried a rented sewing machine on a rickety English bicycle back to my college so that I could make my ballgown. A male student once suggested that women were probably better than men at doing working drawings because we knew how to sew. While this may have been true, it offended our feminist sensibilities. What was happening here? Was this true?

The space of both architectural and garment production — sketch books, drafting board, computer, pencils, pens and sewing machine.

Exceptionally, our particular class at TUNS was very close to the best of sewing when it comes to architecture. Our first design professor, Mark Fisher, visiting the school from England, knew how to sew. At that time he was most famous for having built (sewn) inflatable fabric structures used in Pink Floyd concerts. He recently activated Richard Roger’s Greenwich Millennium Dome in an event starring Peter Gabriel.13 One of our class, Scott MacNeil, followed Fisher to the UK and interned with him, later working with Frei Otto in his pneumatic and tensile structures studio at MIT. I would guess though, in its general outlines, that women’s architecture drawings were informed by sewing was partially correct. When I sewed clothes, they were drawn as ideas, quickly cut out and ripped through the sewing machine — much more like working sketches than anything detailed. It may actually be the case that early education in sewing has inspired and informed inventive works of architecture by women. If true, the influence of sewing has definitely not been acknowledged. I am compelled here to say that my mother, Frances Belyea Bambury sewed almost all of my clothes until I was in junior high. As I have two younger brothers, born very close, most of the sewing happened at night, when the kids had gone to bed. 15 Mark Fisher, Staged Architecture. Chichester, West Sussex : Wiley-Academy, 2000. 13

The space of mending garments: tailor’s shop, via Leutari, Rome, 2001


On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

The space of caring for garments, dry cleaners, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 2002

7. The Global Economics of Sewing. I can sew. I own a sewing machine, but it isn’t always set up. Besides, others can do it better and faster. I was in Saint John last summer, with a broken zipper on my jacket. It was raining hard. I saw five old heavy-duty sewing machines set up in the window of a dry cleaners. I entered and showed the elderly gentleman seated at one of the machines my jacket. “Do you have time to fix it? And do you have thread to match?” “Of course.” I immediately noticed his Eastern European accent. “No problem.” Five minutes and a toonie later it was fixed. In a former life this man was an expert in sewing — a master of an art lost to most North Americans. I imagined him as one of the garment workers displaced, by gentrification, from Spadina Avenue in Toronto or the garment district in Montreal, . Still a master, now he only does repairs. In Baton Rouge where I live, most of the people who sew are recent immigrants. They range from the very expensive tailor Manuel Martinez, a Mexican native who ‘builds’ custom made suits and shirts for the many state capital lawyers, to Vietnamese alteration shops. The deterioration and subsequent transformation of Toronto’s garment district on Spadina Avenue begins the complex story told by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein about the branding of contemporary personal and public space. On the first page of her book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, Spadina is described as a neighbourhood where ‘in the 1920s and ‘30s, Russian and Polish immigrants walked these streets, arguing about Trotsky and the leadership of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union’.14 Klein’s tracing of the rise of consumerism and the ultimate domination of public space and personal freedom by multinationals, ultimately takes her into factories around the globe where people sew. “Ask her what she makes— what it says on the label. You know — label?” I said, reaching behind my head and twisting up the collar of my shirt. By now these Indonesian workers were used to people like me; foreigners who come to talk to them about the abysmal conditions in the factories where they cut and sew and glue for multinational corporations like Nike, the Gap and Liz Claiborne. But these seamstresses looked nothing like elderly garment workers I meet in the elevator back home. Here they were all young, some as young as fifteen; only a few of them were over twenty-one. Klein, xv

The tension between sewing and fashion is huge. It has much to do with architecture in a very public, international and extremely political way. Multinationals sponsor the construction of public buildings and the making of public parks. Drive into Toronto from the airport and you will see large green spaces along the highway which are branded with the names of the corporations which sponsor their upkeep, rendered in shrubbery and well-manicured lawn. This takes me back to Rome and the scaffolds. Last summer, branding was present in huge garment advertisements which covered both monuments and background buildings of piazze. Unlike the green restoration veils which architects romanticize and which were at least transparent, the new opaque fabric billboards are blinders on the windows of even residential buildings. Architecture and sewing, as a topic, reveals many invisible seams, connections implicit but undeveloped, sensed but put aside, personal but over-ruled. These scaffold billboards are both a literal and a metaphoric demonstration of this complex relationship between architecture and sewing. 

Jill Bambury is a professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She studied at TUNS, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS and Cambridge University, England. She maintains a critical practice, her most recent project was a 200 ft2 apartment on the roof of the Hotel Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario.

The complex street space of restoration scaffolding, Assisi, 2001

Klein, Naomi. No Logo- Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. New York: Picador, St. Martin’s Press, 1999. 16

The blind space of corporate advertising on the street. Liptons in the Farnese, 2002.


On Site review


In February of 2001 a cross-disciplinary design exhibition was held at the Wagner Rosenbaum Gallery in Toronto, curated by Filiz Klassen. Fourteen architects and artists presented their current work. Anyone who has been involved in such a venture realizes how much energy is generated in the process of mounting an exhibition — doing the work, writing about it, looking at it, thinking about the connections it makes with all sorts of other kinds of work. And then the exhibition is over, and it is all filed away. How can the energy and the connections be maintained, expanding outward to draw in more than the original fourteen? This being the electronic age, a website has been constructed.


ro-fusion [] is a virtual design forum that sews, fastens, attaches, fuses and transgresses the borders between singular and isolated design disciplines. Conversations and images can be linked across space and time — a web forum gives us an expanded and open field for developing and exhibiting design activity. Designers who re-interpret design concepts, visual material and visualization techniques from the fine and applied arts; from newspaper, television and internet media; and from popular and design culture are working across the often fixed boundaries of professional disciplines. They go beyond the framework of usual design collaborations to promote new subjects for design reflection. The forum can develop a more pluralistic and interactive understanding of design as a creative base for new ideas and specific projects. And it will serve as a provocation for established architects, engineers, scuptors, fibre artists, writers, historians, photographers, and for emerging designers, to find in this fusion an inspiring field of practice. 

Pro-fusion: a virtual cross-disciplinary design forum Filiz Klassen

Raymond Chow Reverberation in the Skin of a Fluid This investigation began with a string attached to a spinning motor. The action of spinning a string gives a wave: a balanced relationship between the reistance in the mass of string and the forces generated by the spinning motor and gravity. Recording the phenomena with a strobe light, photography and video revealed emerging patterns of behaviours inherently present, but hidden from the naked eye. A strip of fabric soaked in plaster was substituted for the string, containing and arresting gravitational and centrifugal forces through the setting and strength properties of the plaster. This fabricated form was multiplied to make a series of rib bone-like structures. The community of rib components balances upon a member made of bamboo under tension.


On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

Paul Raff and David Warne Strachan House (Street City) Strachan House is a community of 60 chronically homeless persons in a renovated factory. A recent governor General’s Award in architecture cited its innovative approach to public spaces that support healthy collective life, offering both private enclaves and shared spaces. The architectural design of Strachan House, by Levitt Goodman Architects, is organised around an interior street, to encourage safe and vital social interaction. The street itself has been designed and constructed as a commissioned art work. It follows the architect’s analogy to a typical street, but extends it to explore poetic and metaphorical potentials. A city street differentiates itself from a concrete corridor by its texture, signs of previous life and its imperfections with its cracks, puddles and slopes. When experienced from a child’s imaginative perspective, the streetscape is indeed a vast terrain: a microcosmic landscape. The result is an organic formal field: a groundscape in which every moment is unique. Unlike a traditional floor pattern, it is not predictable, but rather is open to imagination. Like a complex puzzle of interconnected, interdependent pieces that form a whole, it is a metaphor for this social collective of truly individual characters.

Filiz Klassen shares her ideas with interior design students at Ryerson University and is an independent curator. Her research is in urban issues that involve transformability and sustainability in a hybrid practice of fashion, interiors, architecture and graphics.


On Site review



n 1914 a two-mile aqueduct was built just south of Brooks by the CPR and was part of the huge Eastern Irrigation District that stitched fertile but waterless southeast Alberta together. The aqueduct was in use, amazingly, until 1979 when it was abandoned and replaced by a raised canal. The aqueduct carried water from the Lake Newel reservoir across a two mile-wide, 60’ deep valley, dipping below the CPR tracks with a giant inverted siphon. These details do boggle the mind, as does standing by the canal today, the highest point in the surrounding landscape with water running fast and silently on top of a long hill. In 1996 Walter Hildebrandt, who grew up in Brooks, wrote a long poem about this project. He writes about the complex feelings and relationships of building, maintaining and using a grand gesture of engineering and the combination of nostalgia and annoyance that surrounds it; about

the crumbling aqueduct as an enormous metaphor for dreams and disillusion, the water carried like an overhead river and about the current of his father’s hidden story of being a German intellectual under Stalin, imprisoned, eventually de-patriated, washing up on the shores of the Palliser Triangle after the war. The aqueduct is a 14’-diameter half-pipe hung from a concrete frame of columns, girders and braces. The pipe was made of steel mesh and gunnite. Evidently it started to leak shortly after completion. Chinook freeze-thaw cycles, an over-alkaline environment, some engineering miscalculations that increased water resistance — its next sixty years is a saga of repair. It still stands, a very small museum at one end, a spray-painted, beerbottled haunt for Brooks youth at the other. —SW 

The Brooks Aqueduct

the trouble with history was that it was full of failures now we can see what’s left what was left out what you could not predict the materials that let you down the miscalculation what the optimists left out for history to remind us about questions that couldn’t be asked at the time that were never asked of those who told them you could build a river the way of the future cement steel electricity railways ploughed the future forgot the land the people the rain ice and snow the water the power of the land if only you could sell them on the future again Hildebrandt,Walter. Brooks Coming Home. Images by Peter Tittenberger. Calgary: Bayeux Arts, 1996. p 67. 48

On Site review

Sewing Issue 8 2002

“This is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters. We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying.” Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg Sunday Times, Feb. 17, 2002

Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization that promotes architecture and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises, announces the winners of its 2002 International Design Competition. For this year’s competition, participants were asked to develop designs for a fully equipped, mobile, medical unit and HIV/AIDS treatment centre specifically for use in Africa.

The frame is designed to fit within the footprint of a standard container and can therefore be moved easily using various modes of transportation. A satellite dish and water collection system make the unit self-sustaining, and a locking system enables health workers in the field to secure equipment and supplies at night and during transport. At the same time, while the lightweight, metal skeleton is universal in feeling, materials woven into the frame add local texture. “In Africa, especially in remote areas, you don’t just get a spare part from down the road. So instead of one solution we wanted to come up with a system,” explained Mads Hansen, a member of the design team. “If you want to implement this all you need is a simple frame.”

Read the entire interview with KHRAS team member, Mads Hansen and look at the other entries, read about how Virgin Atlantic is supporting the development of several of the entries, plus background on AHF at

Cette conception des architectes de la société danoise KHRAS a répondu aux critères de la concurrence à un certain nombre de niveaux. L’armature est conçue pour entrer dans l’empreinte de pas d’un récipient standard et peut donc être déplacée facilement en utilisant de divers modes de transport. Un système de collection d’antenne parabolique et d’eau rendent l’unité auto-entretenue, et un système de fermeture permet au personnel sanitaire dans le domaine de fixer l’équipement et les approvisionnements la nuit et pendant le transport. En même temps, alors que le poids léger, squelette en métal est universel dans le sentiment, les matériaux tissés dans l’armature ajoutent la texture locale. “ En Afrique, particulièrement dans des régions éloignées, vous ne descendez pas simplement une pièce de rechange de la route. Ainsi au lieu d’une solution nous avons voulu fournir un système, si vous voulez mettre en application ce tout vous avez besoin est un simple encadrez. “

Lisez l’entrevue avec le membre d’équipe de KHRAS, Mads Hansen:

cover photos: nest: Sahtlam, Cowichan Valley, BC fence: Calgary, Alberta net: Philip Beesley’s Erratics Net, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

in this issue — Scaffolds, Rome Hardouin House, Texas Studio, Rossland Postparkasse,Vienna Profusion, Toronto Aqueduct, Brooks Genome Centre, Montreal Streets, New York City Gehry, LA/Bilbao Quilts, Montreal Thread House, Calgary Files, Harvard Gridshell, West Sussex Tower, Stellarton, NS Nets, Halifax Drawings, Montreal Modernism, Lethbridge Palm Tree Pilot, Las Vegas


on site 8 : architecture and sewing  

Sewing can suggest any number of interpretations depending on the context -- from the city to landscape, from individual buildings to instal...

on site 8 : architecture and sewing  

Sewing can suggest any number of interpretations depending on the context -- from the city to landscape, from individual buildings to instal...