Disclaimer: This dissertation has been written by a student and is not an example of our professional work, which you can see examples of here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this dissertation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKDiss.com.

Architecture and Textiles

Info: 10330 words (41 pages) Dissertation
Published: 21st Oct 2021

Reference this

The Reconciliation of Craft in Architecture as Facilitated by Textiles


This dissertation analyses the enduring relationship between architecture and textiles. Using textiles as a facilitator, the wider relationship between craft and architecture will be explored. The link between architecture and textiles harkens back to an age when woven fibers provided the primitive dwelling of man, developed in various forms throughout history. The significance of this relationship will be examined in particular through the views of nineteenth century architect Gottfried Semper and twentieth century textile artist Anni Albers.

With technological advancement in the age of industrialisation, the apparent discourse and perceptions of textile use within the realm of architecture is explored. The distinction between textile use in art and architecture leads to the discussion of surface and structure within the built environment. The question as to what extent tactile and textile based materials allow us to humanise our built environment will be examined.

It could be argued that the development of indigenous design has now caught up with the pace of the twenty-first century's needs and desire for communication and manufacturing. Architecture has reached a point where the contradiction between structure and ornament is no longer apparent. Ornamentation has now become an option, not just an unnecessary expense. A critical re-examination in attitude to that of the twentieth century ‘ornament is a crime', aided by digitalisation is reviving textiles from its confines in the interior to a more multifunctional and overall structural state. It is arguable that this re-examination in attitude can lead to a reconciliation of craft within architecture. In examining the definition of craft within architecture, this dissertation will explore historical and contemporary aspects of designing and making in the process of creating buildings.

The future of textiles in architecture is being pioneered in contemporary design. Particular focus is given to the concepts, forms, patterns, materials, processes, technologies and practices that are being produced with the collaboration of textile architecture. While there is wide recognition for the visual aspect of textile in architecture, new aspects of tactile tectonics, sensuous and soft constructivism are growing acclaim. There is much evidence to suggest that the preoccupation of textile in contemporary design challenges traditional perception and the very structure of architecture itself.

The conclusion will argue that by applying the traditional idea of craftsmanship in the knowledge of designing and making as one holistic activity to new developments within textile inspired procedures, craft can be reconciled within architecture, as Seamus Heaney speaks of, ‘two orders of knowledge, the practical and the poetic'.[1] This can in turn transform contemporary building processes at a level suitable for today's challenges in society and culture. This raises possibilities of how the concepts of the avant-garde designs of many of today's more innovative architecture can be used and realised in the present state and future of architecture and the city.

Key words: textiles, humanise, visual, tactile, conceptual, hybrid, digital augmented-processes, making, craftsmanship

History, origin and relationship between textiles and architecture

The relationship between textiles and architecture starts with corresponding beginning. Their vast history starts from the role of providing shelter, shade and protection in the building envelope, the ‘skin', originating from crudely stitched animal skins. The history, form and expression of physical woven construction and the use of membranes exist from the light tent structures of human habitation. The significance of the connection between the two disciplines allows and carries ‘complex imprints of geographical, cultural, social and personal influences.'[2]

Textiles are a powerful medium, rich with symbolic meaning and aesthetic significance. They remain ‘sources of communication and manifestations of power', fibrous forms consisting in present day ‘fashions, vehicles, interior textiles, communication technologies and cutting-edge architecture'[3]. As people became more settled, and with the erection of more solid dwellings, textile use in architecture became somewhat neglected and confined to the interiors. There is the question of the practicality as to what extent textiles could continue to be used for weather and visual protection after the development of mechanisms and insulation within the built environment. Some traditional textile materials and structure have continued to be used to present day in some parts of the world; examples including coverings over markets and stalls and basic protection such as an umbrella in Nepal as shown below:

A review of the work of the nineteenth century German architect and theoretician Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) points to the significance of textiles and architecture. Semper remains certain that the ‘beginning of buildings coincides with the beginning of textiles'.[4] Throughout his work, Semper gave emphasis to textiles, offering a western perspective on his interpretations of the origin of architecture. He maintained that textile processes were the principal element, from which the ‘earliest basic structural artefact was that of the knot'[5]. Semper goes as far as to state that architecture originated from the primordial need to distinguish interior and exterior spaces with dividers, ‘fencing made of branches, for example, or hanging tapestries of woven grasses.'[6] Semper showed a high level of understanding of textile arts, its adaptability, transformable state and functional elements, seeking 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 bindings and fastenings, sometimes used as pliant surfaces to cover, to hold, to dress, to enclose, and so forth”[7]

There is much evidence to suggest that textiles share an indissoluble links with architecture, dress and the ‘fabric of society.'[8] Sempers theory's on fabric encompasses his principle of ‘bekelidungsprinzip' (dressing), that rather than an abstract skin, the fabric and façade of an architectural space is a functional part of the structure, ‘a tectonic figuration conceived according to the purpose and convenience of the use expected from a building.'[9] His ideas of the relationship between the architectural façade as a dressing and skin refer to how cloth could be used to transform the human figure. However, Semper understood a ‘buildings aesthetic, symbolic and even spiritual significance to reside in its decorative surface.'[10] He believed that over time, memory informed building types, retaining the ‘symbolic forms of their earliest architectural predecessors'. He believed the geometric patterns of brick and stone walls were ‘an active memory of the ancient weavings from which they were derived'. [11] This leads us to the perception of tactile and textile qualities within the built environment.

Attitudes and perceptions towards tactile and textile use in the built environment

The previous chapter emphasises the importance of textile as a structure, distinguisher between the interior and exterior and establishing a sense of place. While he is adamant about the relevance of textiles within architecture, it is arguable that for centuries the value of textiles as a material was reduced to little significance. Furthermore, textiles can be seen to have been largely excluded from use in a majority of architecture theory and production. It could be argued that one aspect of textiles being somewhat dismissed within the realm of architecture is a result of architecture being portrayed as exclusive and elitist. The separation between textiles and architecture can be seen as dating form the Renaissance. There existed prejudicial distinctions between the importance of ‘minor' arts such as craft and textiles, and the ‘major' arts of architecture. Distinctions as the art critic Barbara Rose states in New York Magazine, 1972, ‘imposed at the end of the Middle Ages when the guilds disappeared to be replaced by the Renaissance academies.'[12]

While movements such as Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts pointed towards architecture that had a direct relationship with arts, the discourse between crafts could be seen to be at its highest point during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the event of industrialisation and modernism. The modernist purist concept lay in the emphasis on purism and functionalism of the architecture itself. It can be argued that the architectural focus on rationalism began to isolate and neglect the spiritual and humanising qualities of a building.

The conflicting aspects between the modern movement and a lack of humanistic architecture can be seen through various sources. Adolf Loos twentieth century manifesto stating the removal of ornamentation is synonymous with ‘the evolution of culture'[13], had a large impact on the development of our built environment. Some feel that this restricted us from:

“A language in which visual thoughts, worldly ideas, communal ethos, and memories may be directly deposited and communicated within the substance of material objects.”[14]

While architects such as Le Corbusier clearly expressed their rejection of ornament, believing in that ‘form follows function', contradictions can be clearly seen with his passion and participation in the tapestry revival. Tapestries have proved an impacting force in the discussion of textiles and architecture. While it is arguable that the high period of tapestry of art can be acknowledged to be the medieval era, new developments in the late 1920s, ‘instead of a woven picture on a wall, tapestry became a wall'[15]. He considered them a ‘mural-nomad' - a portable mural.

The addition of hanging woven reliefs after the modernist era can be seen as an attempt to “humanise the ‘brutalist architecture' of the 70s.” [16] A leading figure in avant-garde tapestry is maker Tadek Beutlich, originally from Poland. His work below, ‘Archangel' is eight-foot wide, feathers made out of sisal and other fibres, portraying his mastered technique of weaving, braiding, wrapping, plaiting, ravelling and unravelling. His display of enormous weavings and fiber based installations of such scale and tactile nature, bringing into question the industry versus the hand.

Some textile arts can be seen as architectural by encompassing the surface they are attached to with such scale and magnitude. Sheila Hick's wall hanging shows how thread begins to take form of a structure, manipulated and composed like a ‘single brick transformed through structural multiplication into a wall'[17]. The French philosopher Claude Levi Strauss goes as far as to comment on Hick's work that:

“Nothing better than this art could provide altogether the adornment and the antidote for the functional, utilitarian architecture in which we are sentenced to dwell.”

The Bauhaus school, renowned for its promotion of a new architectural style, was actually founded for the arts and crafts. However emphasis passed to materials and construction in order to meet the social and technological requirements of the twentieth-century architecture and industrial design. Anni Albers is an example of a weaver at the Bauhaus whose tapestries reflect the chance and spirit of the time. It is arguable that as the ‘ethical and intellectual commitments were made and new materials and processes embraced, visceral and emotional aspects diminished.' However the Bauhaus remains an important influence in the expression of materials and structure, rediscovering the ‘importance of expressing texture, structure, and broken colour and in finding new aspects of pattern with the vertical-horizontal format of woven cloth'[18].

Through an investigation between the similarities that exist between the art of weaving and the realisation of architecture, it is clear that the concepts overlap. Both of the nineteenth and twentieth century theorists Semper and Anni Albers, expressed how the similarities between architects and weavers go beyond surface appearance. Textiles within a space can affect the atmosphere, light, climate, acoustics and spatial arrangements. It is recognised that quality can be achieved by relating the physical properties of their work with aesthetic implications and the inherent and underlying aspect of structure. Anni Albers reinforces the architects and weavers common interests:

“Surface quality of material, that is matière, being mainly a quality of appearance, is an aesthetic quality and therefore a medium of the artist; while quality of inner structure is, above all, a matter of function and therefore the concern of the scientist and engineer. Sometimes material surface together with material structure are the main components of a work; in textile works for instance, specifically in weavings or, on another scale, in works of architecture”[19]

Albers reinforces the importance of textiles within the future of architecture, stating that “similarities between structural principles of weaving and those of architecture “textiles, so often no more than an after thought in planning, might take a place again as a contributing thought” [20].

Textile revival

For the last several decades, expanded by recent technological advances in textiles, the craft of using textiles conceptually and visually has been gaining recognition, reframing its domestic connotations and the confines of the interior. The next generation of textiles is ‘heralded by technological interfaces, programmable surfaces and architectonic capabilities.'[21]

A rejection of European modernism and ideas of universality, textiles as a craft is covering new conceptual ground. Textiles is forging an ever closer relationship with architecture, the two disciplines merging with surface and structure. New sources of sustainable materials are providing another aspect into how the human body is experiences and the urban environment built. Computer technology is inviting new relationships between craft and architecture:

“By exploiting the singular meanings of textile forms, structure, and processes, these textile artists are sometimes placed outside the general art discourse.”[22]

Textiles can be described as a medium “without clear, self-defining boundaries or limitations.”[23] Architects and artists from the 1990's have shown increased vigour in unravelling the essential nature of textiles. Having recaptured with the historical importance of textiles, their attention turned to infusing the same level of emphasis into textiles within the built environment. Some have commented on the flexibility and adaptability of the medium, acting “as a vacuum sucking up new materials, techniques, and modes of expression. It has changed its form, size, psychology, and philosophical stance.”[24]

What unifies designers and artists as a driving force in the creative field of surface design is their enthusiasm for the dimensional possibilities inherent in cloth. There is a fascination by some about the idea of cloth holding the memory of action performed on it; “It is for each generation to expand the vocabulary of approaches to cloth.”[25] This aspect of working with fabric is directed towards the history and memory of fabric, focusing on expressionism; an emotional connection to objects and a tactile spatial awareness. It is arguable that the uniqueness of the craft of textiles in relation to design and architecture lays in the personal input from the individual maker. Critics and scholars have “long recognised that the quality of art lies in concept and quality of insight, not in materials and tools”.

Matthew Koumis highlights how the establishment of textiles applied in a space can differ according to Western and Japanese environments. Koumis points out that in the West a basic element in the hanging of tapestries was to decorate walls of brick or stone, modifying and softening the space. However,

These walls didn't exist in traditional Japanese homes where structures were supported by wooden beams. Some argue that the ‘'fasuma' and shoj' (made from wood and paper) exhibit ‘textile' characteristics and they can take on ‘textile' functions, ‘representing a further development of traditional textile membrane materials'.[26] While Japanese houses do not have designated purposes, textiles or tactile surfaces can be used to designate the function of the space:

“Their contents, and especially their design elements, vary according to the use of the room at any one time. Cloth is often involved in bringing about such changes.” [27]


Decoration has been used throughout time to apply meaning and a sense of belonging in shelters. It could be argued that textiles as a form of decoration play's a vital role in establishing a building's identity. It can describe the function, visually define the spaces and offer up claims as to a sense of the owner or users personality. While cost factor and lack of funding in public arts can be seen as one element, artistic adornment has now reached a stage, aided by digitalisation, that can now be seen as a viable option and not just an unnecessary expense. There is a hope that this can again restore people's pride in their environment and a representation of their culture.

There is much argument to suggest that the diminished financial support for public art and corporate collections has led to:

“the convergence of industrial and digital production techniques in textiles capture the essence of labor-intensive hand-craft that is lost or cannot be achieved due to economic conditions and symbolize a contemporary design spirit.” [28]

A reversal in attitude towards Adolf Loos ‘Ornament is a Crime' is taking place. As such, the work of artists, designers and architects are using technological advances that revive ornament and placing them at the forefront of design. Can you give evidence? And refs on this Designers such as Tord Boontje are reviving a new style of ornament taking the intention of pre-modern design and making it ‘new'. His investigation into the relationship between materials, structures, and surfaces, fleshing out the relationship between craft, design and technology.[29]

Boontje sees ‘design as a way of shaping the future of our world',[30] combining nature and culture, the oldest and latest materials and technologies, forms, functions and colour combinations, and the (most importantly) Be clear about why you are using him as a ref aesthetic of ornament. The computer programmer Andrew Allenson who has collaborated with Boontje, sees a relationship between craft and technology, “Architects and designers can get bogged down in professional management and policy. Tord shows you can be more concerned with process and integrity and self-belief. I've always thought there is a similarity between craft and software.” [31] Again be sure what is improatnt about quote and why you need to use it - this starts on one track and only comes to the track you want at the end

Boontje has taken a new manifestation of function, understanding elements of design from a new point of view and rejoicing in the freedom it has engendered him. Engendered him to what? Like the architect and philospher….Morris (William?), Boontje looks at history and acknowledges a wish for social engagement and the beauty of use based on a response to nature, but Boontje has, as … says (date) “extended Morris's legacy by achieving globalised industrial production and embracing the latest technology.” [32]

Fabric is used throughout Boontje's work with technical innovation, laser-cutting and digital printing. Due to the unpredictable nature of fabric with its elasticity and deformational properties, Boontje realises the difficulty in working with fabric. This unpredictability can also be turned to advantage, collaborating with Swiss and Japanese manufacturers to create a clear expression. Textile and paper are filtered throughout his work, multiple layers being manipulated to create soft definitions of space with nature acting as a dominant influence. Boontje emphasises the importance of textiles and it's relationship to ourselves and the wider society;

“For cloth, like the body, is a mediating surface through which we encounter the world.” [33]

Boontje is also crossing the discipline between textiles into architecture, experimenting in ‘fabric room', as shown below. He states his fascination by ‘the way a draped fabric folds itself in very organic shapes', and realises the insulating properties of the cloth, providing ‘warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer'. [34]

Explain the relevance of this - draw out the argument… and does this sit under title digital ornamentation

The possibility of craft within textile architecture

Link textile + craft. Say textiles craft wider issues of how craft enhance environment. Applicable to textiles - craftsmanship. End pt - clear argument

This dissertation will begin to examine the possibility of craft within textile architecture, first beginning with the definition of craftsmanship within architecture, to theories in relation to making with the hand and how the issue of craft resides with new technological advancement. Finally, I will come to a conclusion as to how the craft of textiles raises new possibilities towards a reconciliation of the traditional meaning of craftsmanship, combined with new methods and material matter through use of digital visualisation and technological manufacturing process. Henry van de Velde, the Belgian architect insisted that ‘crafts were the great creative reservoir for the future'. [35]

The definition and theories of craftsmanship

Historically in the creation of architecture, each form of knowledge was in the making and designing as one holistic activity. The definition of an architect stems from its origins as a chief builder:

“Etymologically derived from the Latin architectus, itself derived from the Greek arkhitekton (arkhi-, chief + tekton, builder)”[36]

The skilled craftsmanship of the builder came from the stonemason craft, “an imaginative and creative designer on one hand, who was comprehensively and intimately familiar, at the same time, with the means by which his design could be brought to realisation in actual stone and morter.”[37]

Using tools as extensions of the hand, the chief builder with a high degree of knowledge and skill ensured a synthesis between tool, material, structure and form. Malcolm McCullough (who is he?) defines a tool (When?) as ‘a moving entity whose use is initiated and actively guided by a human being, for whom it acts as an extension, towards a specific purpose.' However, he clarifies what influences perceptions of craft in work as the ‘degree of personal participation, more than any degree of independence from machine technology'.[38]

Craft involves a union of the hand, tool and mind; craftsmanship arising from manual skill, training and experience. Juhani Pallasmaa argues that the skilled practice of a craft involves imagination of the hand. This skilled practice is at its highest art when it is working from existing knowledge, a ‘continuous meeting and joining of the hands of successive generations'. This generational knowledge, of knowing how to apply craft, has came from relaying on the traditional cultures daily spheres of work and life were an ‘endless passing of the hand skills and their product on to others'. [39] key point here is also succession - at its highest art when it is working from existing knowledge - generational knowledge/ experience /- better still ‘know how' - but is that applicable to ‘new craft'?

There are various viewpoints about the interaction of the bodily action of the hand and the imagination. Pallasmaa argues that:

“The craftsman needs to develop specific relationships between thought and making, idea and execution, action and matter, learning and performance, self-identity and work, pride and humility. The craftsman need to embody the tool or instrument, internalize the nature of the material and eventually turn him/herself into his/her own product, either material or immaterial.” [40]

In examining the value of craft inherent in artisanal work and design, it is arguable that a joint effort of manual work and technology can produce a high standard of results. From my travels in India and Nepal it wasn't uncommon to find manual work that is not merely artisanal but in fact comes very close to industrial work. Eg?-

Tadao Ando reflects on how the digital age has modified his design process, feeling the brain and hands work together, the hand an ‘extension of the thinking process', however you ‘cannot ignore the creativity that computer technology can bring'. While acknowledging the new kind of creativity, he realises the important in being ‘able to move between those different worlds'.[41] Issey Miyake is under the opinion that the ‘joint power of technology and manual work enables us to revive the warmth of the human hand.' While never forgetting the importance of tradition, Miyake's concept of ‘Making Things' involves creating things that make ‘life more agreeable in today's v interestingsociety and less burdensome in tomorrows.' He concludes that technology is not the most important thing:

"it is always our brains, our thoughts, out hands, our bodies which express the most essential things, the foundation of all expression and the emotion they can provide."[42]

It is arguable that a discourse in craft and design can only lead to ultimate failure within architecture and its wider implications. !! - in architecture or where? Richard Sennett's ‘the Craftsman' shows how historical divisions between craftsman and artist, maker and user, technique and expression, practice and theory leads to a disadvantage for the individual and society as a whole. Sennett realises that a consideration of the past lives of crafts and craftsmen show us ways of working, using tools, acquiring skills and thinking about materials. However he argues for more value to craftsmanship than a mere technical ability, raising ethical questions about the craftsman's stance. This raises the question Does the designing and making in the spirit of the craftsman entail the skilled application of contemporary as well as functional tools? Is this your question or his? Not clear here While Ando uses architecture to reconcile the logic and spirit of new technologies, he realises ‘that people always relate to the spirit of the place, or the spirit of the time.' We are reminded that our cities themselves are more important than individual reputations and accomplishments. This is emphasized with Aldo Rossi's claim that “places are stronger than people.”[43] - legends, rituals and and genetics outlive any building - silly Rossi - but of course when you are a fascist power/ful structures are naturally more important than human life.- what do you believe in this- will see in conclusion

Some have set forward the argument that is the architect's role to unite construction, purpose and place. John Tuomey sets a clear demonstration of his desire for:

“a way of thinking which would provide an integration between construction and the site, a re-casting of the redundant craft condition which by tradition would exploit local materials and harness indigenous skills...embedding an initial sense of strategy which could remain evident in the eventual experience of an actual building.”[44]

Architecture needs mechanisms that allow it to become connected to culture. Tuomey's greatest insight is to declare “we are agents in the continuity of architectural culture”. He uses professional knowledge and experience to realise the choices architects face are not “the reaction of an individual moment, but the exercise of an established craft in the continuity of time”. I agree only 50% with this since I think Architecture has been exclusive and elitist and needs to deconstruct its genealogy at times- again very interesting

Architecture can be viewed rationally and historically, its composite nature in structure, function and physical state combined with cultural, political and temporal aspects. Is this a sentence Architecture develops through new innovations connecting these forces, manifesting itself in new aesthetic compositions and affects. The most successful of which provide expressions that are contemporary, yet whose effects are resilient in time. Well said The question remains, will new effects of innovative detailing, experimental use of materials overcome the modernist failure to “visually soften or improve with age.”[45] As remarked by Alvar Aalto; “it is not what a building looks like on the day it is opened but what it is like thirty years later that matters.”[46]

It is clear that craftsmanship is viewed in its preoccupation of the present, yet depends, as commented by Tony Fretton, on “relations between innovation and past events, between individual and collective activity.” [47] Architecture has had to adapt to the change caused by the industry and manufacturing, the individual genius, politics and the rhetoric at some level. It could be said in every historical age it is the people who aid change; they develop the analysis and ideal to what architecture should be. This can result in a tyranny as stated by William Curtis(date); “Detractors resorted to monolithic caricatures, blaming the mythical ‘modernism' for everything from mindless materialism, to the destruction of national identity, to the construction of unbelievable housing schemes.”[48] This view is enforced by Alvar Aalto; “The architecture revolution, like all revolutions, begins with enthusiasm and ends in some form of Dictatorship.”[49] However it is individuals who can also move us on to create statements about the way the world should be, through forms, light, space and material.

Review of the development of Contemporary Textile Designs through Architecture Case Studies

By the mid-twentieth century, largely influenced by the work of Frei Otto, a pioneer in the creation of tensile fabric structures, new developments began in the area of self-supporting membrane structures. Textile construction began ‘taking on a permanence, as an alternative to classical architecture, which it had never seen before'.[50] His design for the Munich Olympic Stadium, set “new standards of material performance and aesthetic in textile architecture with tent, net, pneumatic and suspended constructions.[51] Through the use of technological advancement, pneumatic structures, innovative and fluid forms are being developed like never before.

In its modern form, architecture shares a common origin with textiles. Intense research and experimentation into material matter has resurrected the importance and relevance of the visual and tactile nature of textiles within architecture. There is much evidence to suggest that after the myriad of developments in digitalisation and fabrication over the last decade we are forced to reconsider the very structure of architecture itself. The most visible form of woven material exists today in tensile membrane structure. 

The increasing prominence of textiles in architecture can be seen as the result of innovations in materials science and technology. The cutting edge designers of today are engaging with textiles, new techniques, materials and matter. Their work is of such significant and dynamic contribution to the history, theory and practice of architecture that ensures they will be of continuing value in the future.

Innovative, contemporary expression of lightweight textile construction as a divider, enclosure and shade provider in a domestic context is Shigeru Ban's Curtain-wall house. Uses large curtain as one layer of the exterior building envelope, either inside or outside of a sliding wall. By this strategy, he creates an ephemeral architectural wall-like presence with paradoxical qualities of enclosure and permeability, separation and openness, opacity and movement that connects the interior of the house with the urban exterior through complex, changing experiences of form and space. Design credibility as a construction material to considered a decorative interior element.[52] 

The return to craft, `soft' forms, feel, showing rather than hiding the human hand is intended to humanise the architecture and imbue it with spiritual quality (E Bruwer, personal communication).

Blaisse - Amsterdam based designer studio Inside Outside, p268 materials added to architecture imbue the built environment with softness, a sense of movement, colour and tactility. Inside, Outdides implementations have been described as ‘warm, elegant, sensual and female', a direct contrast to descriptions such as static, male' and even ‘cold' that oftern characterizes contemporary architecture.

Introduction into soft forms harmonise architecture ambition to make buildings more fluid, labile and interactive.

P269 cloth common denominator for the world. ‘textiles have connected all forms of human experience throughout mankind's shared history, and therefore they have cultural and emotional significance for almost everyone today'. Environments create experience, textiles memory and emotion, hand-knotted filtering curtain no woven. Loosely knitted ‘float' within warp, breaking idea textiles must be tightly woven.

Advances in manufacturing processes of fabrics and the development of new fibers has led to the growth of textiles applied and used within architecture. Along with the existing positive qualities (lightness, low mass, replaceability, aesthetic qualities) these new improvements allow the integration of new features that bring a high potential for sustainable architecture with them. Ref ideas- think this is interesting also how it maps against ideas of temporary or impermanence - see Blaisse interview at start of textile and arch book

Textiles are transformed into the tectonic through conventional textiles techniques - weaving, bundling, interlacing, braiding and knotting - this references Semper's discussion about the knot effectively building structure through softness and flexibility. “Fabric-formed environments are fashioning tensile buildings and inflatable pavilions, while the tailoring techniques of braiding, weaving and pleating are building supple skyscrapers and bioclimatic enclosures.” [53] 

“New materials technologies, driven by advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, electronics, 3-D weaving, biomimetics and shape memory alloys, offer extraordinary properties, enabling faster, lighter, safer, stronger and smarter high-performance technical textiles that are increasingly finding new applications in sectors such as medicine, sports, agriculture, transportation, defence, aerospace and leisure.”[54] 

The question of craftsmanship with technological advancement

In the investigation of the reconciliation of craft within digital design, I started out with philosophical theories. I am now going to examine how previous aspects in architecture are being brought into question in light of new technological developments in the twenty-first century. Ruskin's theory was that the hand making of things being of infinite and better quality than the machine:

“To those that love architecture, the life and the accent of the hand are everything.”[55]

He felt to the extent that the use of the machine was an ‘architectural deceit'. Following a century and a half of industrial modernisation, infrastructure, machines and media that now pervade our world, should the idea of craftsmanship be reviewed and extended in terms of context? Mies Van Der Rohe view is perhaps of more relevance in terms of context.

“...Architecture depends upon its time. It is the crystallization of its inner structure, the slow unfolding of its form. That is the reason why technology and architecture are so closely related. Our real hope is that they will grow together, that some day the one will be the expression of the other. Only then will we have an architecture worthy of its name: architecture as a true symbol of our time.”[56]

It is arguable that craft within architecture has always developed with technological advances. The industrial revolution extended tools of craft with a mechanised extrusion of mass-produced repetitive units, encouraging efficiency through standardization and repetition. Some felt (can you name them?) these mechanisms were non-expressive and lacked emotion and spirituality. With a high manufacture content, it is arguable a sense of quality had been lost. This quality came from, as stated by Peter Davey: “the congruity of scale, texture, proportion and form of most buildings in traditional European villages being derived from native sources.”[57]

Can temporary development of digitally augmented design transform the modernist mechanised view of architecture? Has the tradition of craftsmanship been replaced in the reality of today's technical world and mechanical production? The perception of craft is being brought into question in today's industry. Can the growing correspondence between digital work and traditional craft be seen through the mergence of computation as a medium, rather than a set of tools? Has the development of indigenous design with the pace of the twenty-first century mean that this is the only way to reinstate it?

Given this possibility of craft in the digital realm, how do we uphold subjectivity and skill? Has the value and appreciation of craftsmanship been transferred? In regards to the creative process, what mandate do we use to understand skill, talent and insight? Can the intimacy, sensual and tactile connection between the imagination and the object of the design be stimulated through computer-aided design and virtual modeling? How is the close connection between the making of architecture and the close engagement with materiality been challenged? Does digitalisation lead to a detachment and disconnection from the mind and body or become integral in the design process?

Through a re-evaluation of the idea of craftsmanship, would the current discourse between the activities of designing and making in the process of creating buildings be improved? Would the application of digitally-augmented processes from conception to realisation in building benefit contemporary and future architectural design and construction industries? Has the ‘intelligence and complexity of a high order of programming able to guide machines in subtle unexpected ways', diminished the crude and mechanical view of repetition of the machine of modernism?

Tools and the latest production methods of digital manufacture are beginning to be of interest in the construction industry, generating and re-defining the idea of craftsmanship in contemporary architecture. These intentions for fabrication are allowing for innovative and expressive forms that portray contemporary attitudes to the context. New technology, design and fabrication tools are reaching a critical level of sophistication giving unprecedented spatial freedom and creativity, making production economically viable. We can look to Frank Lloyd Wright's hypothesise that:

“In the years which have been devoted in my own life to working out in stubborn materials a feeling for the beautiful (…) a hope has grown stronger with the experience of each year, amounting now to a gradual deepening conviction that in the machine lies the only future of art and craft - as I believe a glorious future.”[58]

Parallel development in design and fabrication technologies are now re-connecting contemporary designers ideas with a closer connection in an ever closer rel than ever before with their material production, prototyping and manufacture. With developments in digital visualization software, it is now possible to develop architecture entirely on the basis of its surface. explain This type of expressive skin form can be generated between the designer and visualisation software. Three-dimensional computer modeling can now steer mass customization processes from CNC milling to laser cutting. However, questions about tradition and craft remain. Is the reclaim of materiality the way to make more humane spaces away from the modernist view? In what way can architects ensure responsibility for the output of what is essentially an industrial design process to ensure a social responsibility towards society?

Contemporary digitally augmented design, by example of case study

The Swiss firm Gamazio & Kohler (do they desribe themselves as architects?) are a contemporary example of digitally augmented design transforming their work. They are exploring the convergence of digital data and physical materiality through the adaptation of mass-customisation technology to the building construction processes. Through this investigation of the interface between architecture, design and construction through digital control and fabrication, they explore how …can the physical structure of architecture be transformed? Will the reorganization of digitalisation and material lead to a shift in the expression of architecture?

The firm uses a robotic arm to articulate the common masonry units that redefine the relationship of space and decoration to modern architecture. Digitally rendered image projections were translated into the language of digital scripts that would allow the robot to lay each brick within the wall at a unique angle. Their design of Gantenbein Winery has an ambiguity, bearing a structural idiom and ornamental symbolism that gives the apparently simple brick wall unexpected depth. The desired three-dimensional graphic effect on the planar surface of the entire façade created a numbered of layered effects. Perhaps something about length of time in production? It has an obvious association with weaving patterns, having a textile like quality that appears woven or soft while clearly stating their structural function and machined precision.

Gramazio & Kohler declare the fundamentals of their work as:

“The physicality of architecture is a prerequisite of architecture and digital design tools are a given of architectural design. The challenge must hence be to develop new methods of working as an architect.”[59]

They portray a synthesis of design conception and realisation by having a role in the form generation and direct translation to fabrication techniques with creative, aesthetic and formal aims. This ability of exerting a higher level of control over the design opens up new possibilities for highly complex creativity and allowing architects to re-establish a relevant position in the building process.

It could be argued that architecture as a genre has alienated itself form the other arts to such an extent that it has forgotten how much humanizing elements can affect the user.

Tactility in the built environment

In attempting to establish the identity of contemporary textile craft and its relation to the built environment, it is interesting to look at the thirteenth Lausanne Biennale (date) , when the theme was ‘Textiles Return to the Wall'. Rather than making tapestries in the form of wall hangings, some of the artists actually built walls by piling up layers of cloth, highlighting the ‘Japanese textile artists' relationship with the space, place and environment in which their fibreforms are created'.[60] See also use of carpet tiles in rural studio… - very tactile Curator Lesley Millar explains a variety of venues are host to a remarkable traveling exhibition, her task was to find:

“Spaces which could exploit the architectonic nature of the exhibition and if possible create a symbiosis between distinctive architecture and the three dimensional qualities of this work thus creating an exciting and demanding interaction of texture and space.”

The link between art, design and architecture is apparent in the ambition of the artists to create an understanding of space, light, texture and materials. We can look (again) to Japanese traditional buildings, of paper and wood sliding screens, the tatami mats and structure of the building to see where their interest in textile arts within architecture originates. Their innovative approach arises from a rigorous understanding of process and material, their mastery of skills coming from a lifetime of developing knowledge. The image below by Shigeo Kubota (date) uses basic materials and techniques of sisal and weft to create complex three-dimensional structure.

Fabric techniques, of course, are usually slow in execution .not always - non wovens or sheet / extruded fabrics are fast in fabrication- think you may be talking about wovens or constructed but think this para is more about skill development - and that is associated with crafting / focusing on a limited range of techniques (unlike architects who often play around with any range of materials ) Skill and development of form are perfected in the process; so it is the perception of the maker. The writer and curator Ann Bathelder states how:

“East European weavers I knew in the 60's were willing to spend 20 years developing a technique, then a year on a single piece. This gave their work great quality.”[61]

Innovative experimentation challenging the perceived perception of traditional materials concrete and textiles has accumulated in a collaboration between a textile artist Trish Belford and an architect Ruth Morrow. Girli Concrete is the product of a conceptually ‘utopian challenge of bringing together hard and soft materials; and the technologies of two diverse but traditional Northern Irish industries: construction and textiles'.[62]

Girli Concrete is more than just decoration and aesthetics, drawing on the experience of the textile artist and the academia of the architect; on local tradition of material and contemporary technologies, with a firm aim to ‘mainstream tactility in the built environment'.[63]. While it has taken four years to master their technique of embedding, building, stitching and weaving textiles into concrete mould, their practice-led research will continue to develop and refine their process, recognising it as a ‘larger and systematic interaction between textiles and construction.' [64]

Future possibilities of Textiles in Architecture

This dissertation has outlined the potential of the development of architecture through the use of textile qualities. However the full potential of this combination has yet to be reached as a lack of research and interdisciplinary teaching is evident although it is encouraged in other academic fields. Architects pre-occupation of treating aspects of their design in their own field and in isolation without regard for other disciplines will undoubtedly prove a disadvantage at present and in years to come. If humanity is to benefit from their built environment, surely this can only be done with an integration of all aspects of design to further enhance a sense of place. The visual environment has as much to offer socially to a society as aesthetically. It is arguable that the integration of textiles in the built environment can help guide urban environment perception back from an alienating, hostile and dehumanising image.

Further research into the field exploring the two disciplines of architecture and textiles might investigate some further issues that need resolved. Certain questions are raised as to the extent the performance of a composite material system consisting of new types of fabric can be transformed into an urban scale. The issue of pattern through hybrid materials, different textile techniques and maintaining the high tactile nature of textiles are there to be developed. Other questions remain such as the permanence and extent of textile use in exterior, decay, elasticity, membrane structure, protective and outer layers. It is hoped that the resultant material might meet sustainability demands, using traditional or regional materials. Today's society is faced with the unique opportunity to investigate and develop these issues further.

There are further possibilities that innovative use of textiles will grow far beyond decorative application to space to an integrated part of the construction process. There is evidence to suggest that the use of malleable materials can be exploited to ‘produce new forms of design adaptability to different and changing functions, complexity and responsiveness.'[65] In order to achieve affordable and attainable shelter, mass production is suggested by the economic conditions and reduction of error. However we ‘must take advantage of the same technology that is offering a reconciliation of the hand made craft with the factory made approach.' [66] Textiles has much to offer by:

‘allowing the poetic and the meangingful mark of the self, can bring back tactile sensation that seems to be missing in our physical environments, expressing the recent resurgence of a new sense of ornament in built spaces.' [67]

Changes in economics, society and culture have contributed to the demand for digitally augmented design. New conditions in architecture with faster design cycles imposes the ‘need and desire for a faster, lighter, smarter, more transportable, easily de/reconstructed and technologically facilitated architecture'[68]. These allow architecture to move on to:

“more effectively express and assimilate the celebrating changes in lifestyle, identity and economics that the contemporary globalised world demands, faster”.[69]

To summarise, with the pace of technological innovation tools have now developed, from the first traces of dwelling made from the hand and sharpened rocks, into mechanisms allowing designers to create impossibly complex three-dimensional forms and spaces. After an age of mass-production we are now entering early stages of mass-customisation. Previously used for product manufacture, processes such as CNC milling, waterjet and laser cutting are now entering the realm of architecture. These processes are making significant impact within the construction process and allowing for the return of ornament within our built environment. Levels of precision and intricacy can now be reached within architecture, translating textile tectonics and techniques into built form and fuelling ‘utopian and futuristic representations of architecture'. [70] As Mark Garcia comments this is of interest to the designers and researchers today, and those of the future, raising:

Aesthetic, social and cultural issues that provoke more complex, sophisticated critiques and discourses within architecture, unencumbered by the problematic need of the clients and material and financial restraint.' [71]


The intersection emerging throughout history between textiles and architecture is now coming together with the avant-garde designs of today's more innovative architecture. New developments are of such significant and original contributions to the theory, history and practice of textile use in architecture that they will be of continuing value in the future.

Design projects and research demonstrate the technical depth of today's exploration into the complex, machine-based condition of architectural design as well as fabrication. Industrialisation of not only standardised building components, materials and elements, but the design tools and technologies architects are now used in customising these materials. They provide a new aspect into how craftsmanship is understood, experienced and integrated into working methods of the architect.

This dissertation makes the case that the two previous separate realms of design and production are now connected in entirely new and innovative ways, leading to a transformation in the current model that we accept as the traditional craftsman. By a re-engagement with the idea of craftsmanship, architects are in a position to yet again re-affirm themselves at the center of the construction industry. This re-engagement involves an awareness of traditional methods, while using newly developed skills in the manufacture process. Given the innovative, sensuous and tactile examples produced by new digitalisation and manufacturing technologies, facilitated by a craftsman's tactic knowledge of making, former historical distinctions between the machine and hand-produced stages in architectural are beginning to dissolve.

Seamus Heaney makes the point that a reconciliation of ‘two orders of knowledge, the practical and the poetic', can resolve conflict within our individual selves. It is evident that by reaffirming the importance of textiles within architecture, both conceptually and visually, that implications for innovative new possibilities beneficial to architecture and the city are endless. The use of textiles in the built environment will continue to redefine the physical and emotional boundaries of the spaces we inhabit, providing the connection towards humanising architecture and a fundamental role in mediating a relationship between body, mind, space and matter.

[1] Seamus Heaney, ‘Frontiers of Writing', 1993, Oxford Lectures collected in the Redress of Poetry (Faber & Faber, London, 1996) p203

[2] Shaping Space: Textiles and Architecture, Janis Jefferies and Diana Wood Conroy p259

[3] Bradley Quinn, Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge, Laurence King 2009, p6

[4] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p235

[5] Studies in tectonic culture, Kenneth Frampton, MIT Press 1996 p86

[6] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p295

[7] Gottfried Semper, Four elements of architecture and other writings. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p 215

[8] Bradley Quinn, Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge', Laurnence King 2009

[9] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p272

[10] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p295

[11] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p295

[12] Mildred Constantine/Jack Lenor Larsen, Beyond Craft: the art fabric', Van Nostrand Reinhold Company,1972, p7

[13] Adolf Loos, ‘Ornament and Crime', selected essays, Adriadne Press 1998, p167

[14] Re-Sampling Ornament, p6

[15] Mildred Constantine/Jack Lenor Larsen, Beyond Craft: the art fabric', Van Nostrand Reinhold Company,1972, p44

[16] Matthew Koumis, Art textiles of the world, USA Volume 1, Telos Art Publishing 2000, p12

[17] Mildred Constantine/Jack Lenor Larsen, Beyond Craft: the art fabric', Van Nostrand Reinhold Company,1972, p178

[18] Mildred Constantine/Jack Lenor Larsen, Beyond Craft: the art fabric', Van Nostrand Reinhold Company,1972, p20

[19] http://faculty.philau.edu/griffenc/weaving_analogy.htm

[20] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p235

[21] Bradley Quinn, Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge, Laurence King, 2009, p6

[22] Matthew Koumis, Art textiles of the world, USA Volume 1, Telos Art Publishing 2000, p12

[23] Ann Batchelder and Nancy Orban, Fiberarts Design Book Five, Lark Books, 1995, Pg16

[24] Ann Batchelder and Nancy Orban, Fiberarts Design Book Five, Lark Books, 1995, Pg16

[25] Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Memory on cloth, Shibori Now, 2002 p11

[26] Slyvie Kruger, ‘Textile Architecture', Jovis Verlag GmbH, 2009, p6

[27] Matthew Koumis, Art textiles of the world, Japan, Telos, 1997

[28] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p265

[29] http://www.dezeen.com/2009/06/19/tord-boontje-appointed-professor-and-head-of-design-products-at-the-royal-college-of-art/

[30] Tord Boontje, Martina Margetts, Rizzoli New York, Year?

[31] Tord Boontje, Martina Margetts, Rizzoli New York, p129

[32] Tord Boontje, Martina Margetts, Rizzoli New York, p189

[33] Tord Boontje, Martina Margetts, Rizzoli New York, p195

[34] www.tordboontje.com

[35] Mildred Constantine/Jack Lenor Larsen, Beyond Craft: the art fabric', Van Nostrand Reinhold Company,1972, p17

[36] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture

[37] John Fitchen, ‘The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals', 1961 Clarendon Press, Oxford.

[38] Malcolm McCullough, ‘Abstracting Craft: the Practiced Digital Hand', MIT Press, 1998, p 68, 69

[39] Juhani Pallasmaa, ‘Architecture of the Hand', p51

[40] Juhani Pallasmaa, ‘Architecture of the Hand', p51

[41] Tadao Ando Interview, ‘The Spirit of Modernism', with Robert Ivy, Architectural Record

[42] Issey Miyake, ‘Making Things', 1999, Foundation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Scalo, p55, 104,

[43] Colin St John Wilson, ‘The Other Tradition of Modern Architecture,' Black dog Publishing

[44] John Tuomey, ‘Architecture, Craft & Culture', Reflections on the work of O'Donnell & Tuomey, Gandon Editions, 2004

[45] Geoff Rich, Modern Matters, Architectural Review, Feb 2006, p 41

[46] Colin St John Wilson, The Other Tradition of Modern Architecture, Black dog Publishing

[47] Tony Fretton, The History of the New, Building Material, issue 12 - Morality and Architecture, 2004, p 8-11

[48] William J. R. Curtis, Transformation and invention: on re-reading modern architecture, Architectural Review, March 2007, p 36


[50] Slyvie Kruger, ‘Textile Architecture', Jovis Verlag GmbH, 2009, p6

[51] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p261

[52] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p261

[53] Architextiles, Mark Garcia, John Wiley & Sons 2008, p8

[54] Architextiles, Mark Garcia, John Wiley & Sons 2008, p8

[55] John Ruskin, ‘The Lamp of Life', 1849, p35, 170

[56] Ulrich Conrads, ‘Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture', MIT press, 1971, p154

[57] Peter Davey, Material Assets, ArchitectureRreview, Aug 2004, p 39

[58] Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘The Art and Craft of the Machine', 1901

[59] Christoph Merian Verlag, ‘Re-Sampling Ornament', S AM No. 5, p15

[60] http://www.fourthdoor.org/pdfs/5.13.pdf

[61] Ann Batchelder and Nancy Orban, Fiberarts Design Book Five, Lark Books, 1995, Pg10

[62] ‘The Oxford Conference: A Re-Evaluation of Education in Architecture', p358

[63] ‘The Oxford Conference: A Re-Evaluation of Education in Architecture', p360

[64] ‘The Oxford Conference: A Re-Evaluation of Education in Architecture', p360

[65] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p266

[66] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p265

[67] Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture; special Issue Shaping Sace: textiles and Architecture Vol 4, Issue 3 Fall 06 p265

[68] Mark Garcia, Architextiles, Architecture Design Nov/Dec 2006, Wiley, p10

[69] Mark Garcia, Architextiles, Architecture Design Nov/Dec 2006, Wiley, p10

[70] Mark Garcia, Architextiles, Architecture Design Nov/Dec 2006, Wiley, p18

[71] Mark Garcia, Architextiles, Architecture Design Nov/Dec 2006, Wiley, p18

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this dissertation and no longer wish to have your work published on the UKDiss.com website then please: