The city is a sprawling mosaic of old and new structures, infrastructure, and inhabitants. As with the weft on a loom, we change the urban landscape while staying inside the bounds set by lot boundaries, roadways, and zoning regulations. It’s uncommon for people to equate weaving with architecture. It has been a staple of craft-based material creation processes for millennia to interlace textiles, thread, and yarn to create broad expanses of cloth. Another descriptive metaphor for the complex interweaving of components that compose the “social fabric” is weaving. Nonetheless, even before considering the idea of an abstract woven “fabric” of social ties in architecture, we can focus on the real structural and aesthetically pleasing reflections of woven shapes in building design.
It seems sensible that weaving may be employed in architecture to create the building’s envelope, shell, or façade since it has traditionally been used to create textile materials intended to drape and cover the body and other forms. The projects in the list below showcase many applications of the idea of woven materiality, all of which may be found in the structural enclosure of the structure. While some are made of wood or metal and are thus literally weaved, others reference weaving by symbolically nodding to the process.
The Four Elements of Architecture
Gottfried Semper stated that the concept of building blocks emerged in the middle of the 19th century. In his groundbreaking book The Four Elements of Architecture, Semper argued that the threading, twisting, and knotting of linear fibres was one of the oldest human talents and the source of all other human endeavours, including architecture and weaving. In actuality, his notion of architecture did not view the artisanal-industrial world of textiles and weaving as a mere sideshow. The issues brought on by industrialization and modernization, he believed, would be significantly changed by Europe‘s textile traditions. He stated that “the beginning of building coincides with the beginning of textiles.” And he believed the knot was the most fundamental component in construction and textiles. Semper, who was fascinated by etymology, discovered evidence that supported his theory that the textile arts evolved before other art forms by seeing the similarity between the Germanic words for joint (Naht) and knot (Knoten), which both have the Indo-European root noc (whence nexus and necessity). The relationship between knots and joints is more than merely a link in the history of techniques. The much more fundamental question of what it means to manufacture things is at issue here, as Semper realised.
Today, most of us conceptualise a joint as an articulation of rigid pieces using a part-whole approach. But, no life could exist in a world pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle from perfectly matching, externally delimited parts. Not a thing could grow or move. It was Semper’s intuition to recognize that knotting is the essential basis of coherence in a world of things constantly coming into being via processes of growth and movement, that is, in a world of life. In what would otherwise be an inchoate flux, it is how shapes are kept together and conserved. This holds for produced and grown forms, such as artefacts and living beings. Once we give up the idea that condition is imposed on the things of the material world, either from within, by a genetic template, or from without, by an architectural template, the traditional distinction between growing and making ceases to seem as sharp and direct as we are prone to believe.
Link Between Digital and Traditional Weaving
Several contemporary architectural design methodologies are reexamining weaving to highlight the superiority of digital architecture computing. It is possible to build interwoven items in sync with the digital model and materialise them with rapid prototyping tools thanks to various braiding, knotting, and weaving algorithms. Unfortunately, several essential weaving characteristics are absent. While traditional weaving serves structural and aesthetic purposes, some modern digital architecture, as shown by the Aranda/Larsch algorithm, uses weaving primarily as a surfacing pattern rather than as a way to assemble structures. Other intriguing ideas use carbon fibre weaving to create large-scale architectural designs, such as Peter Testa’s Carbon Tower and Jenny Sabin’s eBraid tower. Hands-on weaving techniques are still used extensively in craft-making and home construction in several traditional communities where sophisticated materials and digital fabrication equipment are not readily available. Because each knot they tie limits the subsequent weaving stage, weavers use their senses and brains to solve problems as they arise while working with the raw material.
Modern structures generally need more sense of craftsmanship. These resemble 3D prints made of concrete, copies of copies whose designs mimic those of investors who will never be able to compete with them financially. Together, they result in sterile neighbourhoods devoid of a feeling of a place. In such locales, supple envelopes, fluid inside-out interactions, and forms determined by context all sound like out-of-date illusions. Even if not literally, we might find comfort in the notion that most vernacular neighbourhoods in Indian cities are like woven urban fabrics created by the movement, habits, and activities of everyday people involved in making their environs complete, piece by piece. Such a fabric is the primary aesthetic of conventional Indian cities and bastis. It is constructed painstakingly by residents and users out of numerous, thin threads that can form patterns as they come together.
- Is Architecture Actually a Form of Weaving?, Smithsonian. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/architecture-actually-form-weaving-180955698/ [Accessed February 23, 2023].
- Of Blocks and Knots: Architecture as weaving, The Architectural Review. Available at: https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/of-blocks-and-knots-architecture-as-weaving [Accessed February 23, 2023].
- The Four Elements of Architecture, Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Elements_of_Architecture [Accessed February 23, 2023].
- Basket Case: 7 Bold Woven Façades, Architizer. Available at:https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/woven-facades/ [Accessed February 23, 2023].