Architecture and textiles

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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.

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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.

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