Textiles and architecture are coming together in new and innovative ways, but the relationship between the two has existed for millennia. Few would guess that textiles have a long history as an architectural material, sparking a tradition of portable habitations and porous buildings inhabited by civilisations on the move. As these early textile structures afforded protection from the elements, they were also embroidered with symbols and woven with patterns that identified groups, individuals and communities. Fabrics and textile techniques disappeared as wood, stone, metal and glass began to characterise the new era, but recent developments in material technologies have revealed their relevance to architecture today. Above image: Tonkin Lin, Shi Ling Bridge, Canyon footbridge.
Fabric patterns and textile techniques are loaded with meaning, and their presence in architecture can endow structures and objects with familiar second skins. Textiles are more tactile than conventional materials, and their colours, textures and finishes imbue them with stylistic references uncharacteristic of traditional surfaces. Lace, in particular, has emerged as a source of inspiration for architects. Shrugging off its frilly, feminine connotations, lace is no longer associated with fashion alone. Above image: Nottingham Contemporary, The facade clad in lace-patterned, pre-cast concrete.
From buildings and bridges, to lighting and luxury products, the imprint of lace has become an inspiration for surface decoration and structural design. Regarded today as an icon of architectural lace, the ‘Lace Fence’ created by identical twins Jeroen and Joep Verhoeven and designer Judith Graauw transformed a conventional chain link fence into a one-of-a-kind outdoor barrier. By translating classic lace patterns into grey tone vector drawings, the designers pioneered a method of upsizing lace samples and reproducing them on an industrial scale.
Image above: Jean Nauvel, Burj Doha, Qatar. Image below: Jeroen and Joep Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw of Demakersvan, Rotterdam transform a residential housing project in Den Haag with their Lace Fence.
Words by Bradley Quinn. Extract from issue 82 Lace.