Magazine December 2017

The textile world at a glance: From art to history

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Lumen – knitted light

The use of textiles to create living spaces is a long-practiced tradition. Thousands of years ago, they were used for dwellings like tents. In the recent past, textiles have experienced renewed interest in terms of functional and aesthetic aspects, not just in pure design, thus combining architecture, practicality, and art.

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Knitted fabrics in art and architecture

This therefore created a trend in so-called "soft architecture" because among other things, the concepts of future living are meant to solve current problems on one hand, and on the other creates new opportunities. Biomimicry, the imitation of processes and designs from nature, plays a large role in this. Issues such as sustainability and environmental awareness can be integrated into modern life in this manner. This demand has led to the use of textiles in construction becoming a specialized field that requires a great deal of technical expertise.

In the past, weaving was the standard process to create textiles used for shading or accommodation purposes. Today, knitting plays a larger and larger role because it allows a higher level of detail and more flexibility in the end product. The textile can be knitted directly into the desired shape, while considering necessary functionality in the pattern at the same time, without requiring additional work. The combination of specific yarns with very different properties and the use of various knitting patterns creates textiles that meet functionality, durability, and aesthetic demands, that imitate nature, or that find recognition in the art world as well.

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MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program

In order to give talented upcoming architects the opportunity to design and present innovative projects, the Museum of Modern Art of New York (MoMA) started the Young Architects Program in cooperation with MoMA PS1, a pioneering institution for contemporary art in Queens, New York City. Every year, a few select architects are tasked with creating an original design for a temporary installation outside the MoMA PS1 on Long Island that provides visitors with shade, seating, relaxation, and water during the summer months, and that serves as a venue for concerts and other events of MoMA PS1.

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Lumen – knitted light

This year's winner of the competition is Jenny Sabin with her Lumen project. The designer describes her work as "knitted light" because it consists almost entirely of textiles that illuminate under certain conditions. Both recycled textiles as well as specially created knitted fabrics from high-tech yarns were used. The namesake light is created by the high-tech responsive yarns used: a photoluminescent yarn that absorbs light and UV radiation all day and then emits it to generate illumination, and a solar-active yarn that changes color when exposed to sunlight. A canopy was knitted with both of these fabrics, that is held from the three walls of the inner courtyard, and three steel towers that are about six meters tall and filled with water. The water contained in the towers is distributed through a misting mechanism hidden in the "textile stalactites" and triggered by close by visitors.

The impressive design was originally developed by computer, the digital construction plans were designed in studio, and then implemented via simulations and sketches. Then the individual cells and stalactite shapes were created using flat knitting machines. While the designer combined various production techniques in earlier works, her Lumen project does not include any hand-knitted components; everything was created digitally and produced via machine.

The winner

Jenny Sabin is the owner of the architect firm Jenny Sabin Studio and manager of the Sabin Design Lab, an organization within the architectural program at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY, USA) where she teaches as an instructor on the topics of design and developing technologies. Her award-winning project Lumen is only the newest in an entire series of designs that illuminate the intersection between architecture and science. She has already created similar installations from knitted materials in the past: In 2012, in cooperation with Nike to present their Flyknit collection, and a pavilion ordered by New York City called PolyThread. Jenny Sabin is thus a pioneer in the developing architecture of the 21st century that uses findings and theories from biology and mathematics in order to design material structures.

Groz-Beckert Technology and Development Center

Groz-Beckert also offers its customers the opportunity to cooperate in developing and implementing innovative ideas. Our Technology and Development Center (TEZ) possesses the necessary infrastructure for this. Interested? Our experts will be happy to advise you.

All pictures: Lumen by Jenny Sabin Studio for The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program 2017, on view at MoMA PS1 from June 29 to September 4, 2017. Image courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo by Pablo Enriquez.

  • Did you know this?

    The stitch spacing for materials of E 66 fineness is 0.2 mm. This is about as thick as the protective cover on your phone.