Saturday, 12 June 2010

Architectural Weaving Article

Taken from Architecture Week by Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake from KieranTimberlake Associates. The article is an excerpt from the book Manual: The Architecture of KieranTimberlake by Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake, 2002.

"Weaving is most often associated with textiles, but it is also relevant to architecture. It is a construct and a craft that can purposefully and aesthetically order building systems. Just as a thread can be pulled from a woven fabric and a new one inserted in its place, so too can building and urban systems be removed, replaced, or added when the whole is conceived as an exposed woven tapestry.

In its ancient usage, weaving creates surfaces and volumes by the regular interlacing of pliable strands — the warp and the woof — passing over and under each other at right angles. Friction at every joint enforces the structure of weaving. No material is completely inert, and under pressure from the environment, all materials deform.

When deformed, many materials are elastic; they retain some memory of their prior state and will strain toward their original plane unless restrained. The bending of the strands, each of which wants to restore itself to a flat position, creates friction, between the threads at each overlap.

This three-dimensional friction among strands above, below, and to each side, restrains the individual segments and forms the stable plane of a textile. In modern architectural usage, fasteners often provide the required friction in place of the deformation of the individual strands of material at work in textiles.

The building block, or cell, of a woven surface is the joint between overlapping materials. Weaving is in essence a continuous joint. In closely spaced weaving, the pattern of intersections becomes both visually and practically subservient to the plane or volume.

Although the joint is normally an event of such physical consequence that it dominates our perception, in a densely woven form, the joint is transformed into a recessive contributor to the overall appearance of surface and shape.

Weaving, however can never be completely closed; it always has space between its strands. While the woven surface separates and contains, it breathes and connects. it is a scrim, a screen that is at once space and surface, Never quite a membrane, but part joint, part surface, part volume, part system, weaving is unique in architecture in being simultaneously open and closed.

Weaving Systems

The association of weaving with volume and system carries the craft into the deepest structures and largest scales of current architecture and urbanism. The integration of a large number of operating systems into buildings is a problem of relatively recent origin.

Indoor plumbing has been common for less than 150 years; widespread electrification and elevators for vertical transportation are little more than a century old; air-conditioning and fire-suppression systems were novelties less than 75 years ago, and today, emergency power, door operators, and security, voice, and data transmission are part of the onslaught of systems that course through our buildings.

The fundamental process and manner of conceiving architecture, however, has changed little. We still tend to organize program and space long before we integrate systems.

Rock Hall, Temple University

What is the depth of the imitative versus the authentic? One is a fictive invention, and the other is a fiction derived from necessity. In Rock Hall, an auditorium of the Esther Boyer College of Music at Temple University, we use the idea of the room as a musical instrument; the depth of the sound box is represented in the depth of the weave.

The metaphor is one of tectonic reality and is drawn from the program. The acoustical requirement of 50 percent absorptive and 50 percent reflective surfaces led to a proscenium that exploits the depth and lightness offered by flat panels. It is a solution that balances the question of imitation versus invention.

The strands in this textile are typically six-inch- (15-centimeter-) wide plywood strips with a two-foot- (60-centimeter-) wide central panel. During design, we built a full-scale panel with a small millworker to test the ability of the plywood to bend and for the necessity of fasteners at points of overlap. An adjustable metal superstructure supports the woven wood panels.

The Shipley School

In our shop, there are no matters of lesser importance. At this new middle school, architecture is structure. It is fire protection, it is codes, it is equipment. It is all design. These systems are inseparable and intrinsic to the problem of designing a school. They are part of the education of children.

Weaving provides a way to navigate what goes over and what goes under. We turn systems engineers into architects, and they turn us into engineers. Sometimes the engineers like the role reversal. Sometimes they go kicking and screaming into the world of woven systems.

We have to trace every pipe and duct. We have to know how large it is, what it is made of, and how it turns. In this small building section, below a balcony walkway, all the building trades had to come to know and work with each other, while coinhabiting three feet four inches (102 centimeters) of common real estate. If one is not willing to become a mechanic, one should not become an architectural weaver.

Sterling Law School, Yale University

We love direct challenges from our architectural ancestors. The blunter the challenge, the better. Our addition for the Sterling Law School Dining Hall comes squarely up against the stone walls and elaborate windows of James Gamble Rogers's 1930s structure.

We sought direct competition with the original wrought-iron metalwork by using stainless-steel and bronze rods and straps, but the new gates in no way cancel the stone craft against which they are juxtaposed. The old stone carving and the new metal gates, while of different ages, are equal crafts.

The fabricator really rose to the task. Consider that every pair of bends in the stainless-steel bar — out, then back to vertical again — had to be made in precisely the right location so as to intersect the 3/4-inch (19-millimeter) bronze bar where the buttonhead fastener, passing through a predrilled hole, would lie flat against it. When asked what he had worked on before these gates, he replied, "Something for the space shuttle."

Viewed in relation to contemporary architecture, weaving is a conceptual and physical armature that accommodates the differential life spans of buildings and urban systems.

At the same time that weaving provides for separation and the differential removal and replacement of elements, it composes and organizes single strands of material into a deliberately visual artifact, insisting upon repetition and pattern in its placement as purpose is translated into orderly artifice. Weaving celebrates the realization that permanence is no longer a prospect nor even a desire of architecture."

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