The Craft and Topology of Woven Forms

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Ar. Kenneth Koh Qibao

Studio Description

This studio explores the architectural possibilities and ideas stemming from traditional craft-making. This particular semester focuses on woven topologies.

Beyond its use in fabric design, weaving introduces myriad ways to create surface patterns that can be embodied in architectural design. Mathematically or topologically, the basic units of links and knots can be used to represent the spatial logic within woven structures such as a fabric, a cloth, or a basket.

Our starting point is an interesting parallel drawn between the realms of textiles and architecture first explored by 19th-century German architect Gottfried Semper in The Four Elements of Architecture. The enclosure of a building, as posited by the book, began as textiles such as woven grasses and branches, which evolved into woven screens and tapestries which were eventually abandoned for more solid walls and blocks that divided space. The basic unit of a woven structure is the knot, carrying the topology and spatial logic that informs the larger pattern of a fabric.

Studio Objective

The objectives of this studio are circumscribed by the following questions:

In the heat and humidity of the tropics, could a permeable skin be woven from an endless spool of material that twists and loops?

What would a building be like if it were seamlessly woven and knotted instead of stacked and joined, continuous instead of conclusive, flexible instead of definite?

Could the design of a façade emerge from an iterative process?

How can understanding material properties generate formal geometry?

In this digital age of 3D printing & computational design, how can we use technology in the resurgence of a new form of craft-making?

In the spirit of Carlo Scarpa’s ‘adoration of the joint’, we shall pay close attention to the ‘joints’ manifested in building fabric – the intertwining of knots and links. While we would ordinarily conceive of architecture as consisting of a static kit-of-parts, the language of knotted fabric introduces architecture as a seamless field that allows growth, movement and porosity. Architecturally, the language of the fabric also allows for flexibility to bridge and extend existing geometries and histories, and to clothe new meanings onto architectural bodies.

Studio Brief

Topology, knotting and weaving

To study the topology / geometry of knotting and weaving through sketches and study models, drawing inspiration from natural woven forms and traditional woven crafts like basket & textile weaving.

Material, performance, environment

To abstract an idea or methodology derived from weaving.

To translate the idea into an architectural fabric that performs in a tropical climate, regulating light, heat and air.

Enclosure, space & form

To design a workshop space that responds or connects to an existing building.

This intervention requires a study of existing site geometries and histories and an architectural projection of a new spatial fabric.