‘Knitted Architecture’ offers plan for greener cities


“Very long-term stuff might sound pretty conceptual,” he says, but it allows people to think about the effects in a thousand years of all the materials and waste we are creating now.

The pillars of Knitted architecture are made from wool, cotton, acrylic, steel and wood and explore the use of 3D knitting technologies in architecture.

Jenny Underwood and Leanne Zilka work with some of the 3D knitted materials.
Julien kingma

“The big problem is that textile technologies are more advanced than any architectural material,” Zilka explains, citing the fibers used for bulletproof vests and for blocking electromagnetic waves. “In architecture, the hardest thing to do is a complex geometric shape. “

Zilka and Underwood see the Sample the future exhibition as a “fantastic experimentation ground” to carry out their research while showing the public the possibilities of combining the fields of architecture and textiles.

Zilka and Underwood are putting what they’ve learned so far into a real-world research project they call Reskinning the City.

Zilka, senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University, and Underwood, associate dean of its School of Fashion and Textiles, have been collaborating on projects over the past decade, but it hasn’t has not always been an easy task.

The pleasantly playful aspect of Knitted architecture belies the complexity involved in creating what Zilka describes as “a group of torsos linked together by a group of shoulders.”

Essentially, the couple had to invent a way to communicate the technical languages ​​of architecture and textile technology. “In architecture, we use meters and millimeters and we speak in scale [whereas] in textiles and fashion it’s 1: 1 and they take care of the pixels, ”Zilka explains. “It’s a completely different language.”

Technicians build Zilka and Underwood’s Knitted Architecture facility at RMIT.
Julien kingma

The two designers ultimately overcame this hurdle by combining RMIT’s Shima Seiki 3D knitting machine with digital modeling and design tools used by architects.

“Making complete clothes is nothing new,” says Zilka. “What is new is to expand its ability to cope with infinite lengths and complex shapes … to translate a computer-developed architectural format into the language of textile technology.”

What is also new is how this next generation industrial manufacturing technology can be harnessed to knit a complex shape without waste, using high performance lightweight yarns like carbon fiber and Dyneema, a 15 fiber. times stronger than steel for the same weight.

Very immediately, Zilka and Underwood put what they’ve learned so far into an actual research project they call Give the city a makeover, which explores the enduring possibilities of knitted architecture in the face of climate change.

Longer term, the plan is to wrap buildings in 3D knitted skins that capture solar energy, reflect heat, provide passive urban lighting, collect data, and incorporate microclimate pockets for plants and insects.

“Parts of our cities are operating to century-old standards while dealing with climate change and other issues,” says Zilka. “A retrofit solution that can be deployed on facades is the only answer. This is the direction in which we are heading.

Textiles also provide a decorative element, explains Underwood. “That’s what fashion allows – more color. It is the joy of the installation.

It is also recyclable. When Sample the future finishes, the fabric used in Knitted architecture can be untangled and reused.

Sample the future is in Melbourne at the Ian Potter Center: NGV Australia until February 6.


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