PhD defense: Textiles in the Material Practice of Architects – Opportunities, Challenges and Ways of Stimulating Use

Elisabeth Jacobsen Heimdal

Elisabeth Heimdal Wærsted is defending har Ph.D. thesis: “Textiles in the Material Practice of Architects – Opportunities, Challenges and Ways of Stimulating Use” on Monday 20. January 2014 from 13 – 16.

Place: Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Building 421, auditorium 74.

Supervisors: Torben Lenau, DTU and Eva Brandt, KADK.

See the full invitation here phdforsvarElisabethHeimdalWærsted

The photograph above is taken by Ditte Valente.

Abstract in English – in Danish in the end of the post

This dissertation reports on a design research project about textiles in the material practice of architects. Targeting practicing architects, its aim is to understand how textiles are currently part of their material practice, factors influencing their use and non-use of textiles, and how awareness of their benefits may be raised. The project’s three research questions are thus: 1) How are textiles currently used by architects? 2) Which challenges to the use of textiles in architecture can be found in the material practice of architects? 3) How can the use of textiles in architecture be stimulated? Based on Donald Schön’s view of design as reflective practice, material practice is defined as how architects work with, choose and apply materials. To reach the aim, the project integrates literature from material science, engineering design, textile engineering and design, as well as architecture, and conducts empirical studies using first face-to-face interviews with practicing architects and then workshop-based experiments with architecture students.

The interviews were used to answer the first two research questions by analysing the current situation. This showed that architects, even though it is to a limited extent, use textiles in their designs in different ways and in their design process and an awareness of opportunities with their use in architecture. However, four dilemmas and the high integration of material considerations in the architectural design process make the use of textiles difficult. The influence of experience, cost and legislation are yet three factors that explain non-use of textiles. The analysis also pointed to the importance of material samples for the material choice, but also limitations concerning how they are used by, and presented to architects.

Based on this analysis of the current situation five experiments were carried out to probe further into how awareness of the opportunities with the use of textiles may be raised, and into ways of stimulating the use of textiles in architecture. The first two experiments involved architects and other professional stakeholders in the design of more healing hospital environments using a textile design game and multi-material model making. Then, three experiments in workshops with architecture students explored the use of textiles in sketch model making, as a way of sketching ideas for how textiles can be used in office environments. The experiments show that by experimenting with representations of textiles, materials that exhibit and imitate properties of textiles, and physical samples of actual textiles, awareness and understanding increase, and ultimately stimulate architects’ use of textiles.

Core contributions include discussions of the definition of textiles in the context of architecture and of the place of textiles in material classifications as well as a number of interactive experiments that may easily be conducted by architectural firms, contributing with new knowledge on how the use of textiles may be increased among architects.

Dansk Résumé

Denne afhandling beskriver et designforskningsprojekt om tekstiler i arkitekters materialepraksis. Rettet mod arkitekter er projektets mål at forstå hvordan tekstiler er en del af deres materialepraksis, faktorer der påvirker brug og ikke-brug af tekstiler samt hvordan bevisthed om deres fordeles kan øges. Projektets tre forskningsspørgsmål er derfor: 1) Hvordan bliver tekstiler i dag brugt af arkitekter? 2) Hvilke udfodringer til tekstilers brug i arkitektur findes i arkitekters materialepraksis? 3) Hvordan kan brugen af tekstiler i arkitektur stimuleres? Baseret på Donald Schön’s forståelse af design som reflektiv praksis, defineres materialepraksis som hvordan arkitekter arbejder med, vælger og bruger materialer. For at nå dette mål integrerer projeket literatur fra materialevidenskab, enegineering design, textile engineering og design, samt arkitektur, og laver empiriske studier som først bruger interviews med arkitekter og så workshops-baserede eksperimenter med arkitektstuderende.

Interviews bruges til at besvare de første to forskningsspørgsmål ved at analysere den nuværende situation. Disse viste at arkitekter bruger tekstiler, om end i begrænset omfang, på forskellige måder i deres design, og i deres designproces, og en bevisthed om mulighederne ved deres brug i arkitektur. Fire dilemmaer og en høj integration af materialovervejelser i designprocessen gør dog brugen af tekstiler vanskelig. Inflydelsen af erfaring, kostnader og lovgivning er tre andre faktorer som forklarer ikke-brug af tekstiler. Analysen peger også på vigtigheden af materialeprøver for valg af materialer, men også på begrænsninger i forhold til hvordan disse bruges af, og præsenteres til arkitekter.

Baseret på analysen af den nuværende situation blev fem eksperimenter gennemført for at sonde videre i hvordan bevidsthed om muligheder ved brug af tekstiler kan øges, og i måder hvorpå deres brug i arkitektur kan stimuleres. De første to eksperimenter involverede arkiteker og andre professionelle aktører i design af mere helende hospitalsmiljøer ved brug af et tekstil design spil og modelbygnig med forskellige materialer. Derefter udforskede tre eksperimenter med arkitekstuderende brugen af tekstiler i modelbygning, som en måde at skitsere ideer på hvordan tekstiler kan bruges i kontormiljøer. Eksperimenterne viser at ved at eksperimentere ved repræsentationer af tekstiler, materialer som har og efterligner tekstilers egenskaber, og fysiske prøver af tekstiler, kan bevisthed og viden højes, og i sidste ende stimulere arkitekters brug af tekstiler.

Afhandlingens kærnebidrag er diskussioner af definitionen af tekstiler i arkitekturmæssig kontekst, og af tekstilers plads i materialeklassifikationer, ligesom et antal interaktive eksperimenter som nemt kan laves også af tegnestuer, og på den måde bidrager den med ny viden om hvordan brugen af tekstiler kan øges blandt arkitekter.

 

You can contact Elisabeth Heimdal Wærsted on:   <elisabeth@wærsted.com>

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About Eva Brandt, KADK

Eva Brandt is Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, and holds a Ph.D from 2001. Eva is co-leading the Center for Research in Codesign (CODE). Since September 2014 she has been part of the main faculty for a two year international MA-program in codesign. The main part of her research is about how designers can stage open design processes (design labs) with many participants who both can inquire into existing practices and explore possible futures in common. She also contributes to theorizing about experimental design research driven by programs and experiments. She has been contributing to several books such as Design Spaces (IT Press, 2005), Rehearsing the Future (The Danish Design School Press, 2010), XLAB (The Danish Design School Press, 2011), Facilitating Change – Using Interactive Methods in Organizations, Communities and Networks (Polyteknisk Forlag, 2011), and Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design (Routledge, 2013). Eva has been chairing the Nordic Design Research Conference in 2013.

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