Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance

October 27, 2009

McQuaid, Matilda.  Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance.  Princeton Architectural Press, New York


The idea of “materiality” often overlooks textiles, even though they are some of the most performative materials available.  They have a wide and dynamic range of uses in virtually every science.  This book is showcasing the exhibition at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum of the same name.  It gives examples of textiles that are stronger, faster, lighter, smarter, and safer than most would imagine.  A key point is that they are not designed to be aesthetically pleasing, but may be visually arresting due in whole to their texture, precision, detail, etc.  Some examples of these textiles are wing suits (lighter), carbon-fiber cars (faster), tire-cord fabric (stronger), Kevlar (safer), and robotic rope (smarter).

The processes which are used to make strong textiles include weaving, braiding, knitting, embroidery, and nonwovens.  These are used to produce varying rigidity, flexibility, and for implantation.  Architecture is typically known to use fabrics as light materials, in tensile structures.  This is being challenged by the possibilities of carbon-fiber in structures, rigidizable structures, and many more.  Textiles are also highly involved in aeronautical pursuits, such as NASA’s use of textiles as thermal insulation material, parachutes, space-suits, and the structures of space vehicles.  Smart textiles are also growing in use and possibility, as information displays, sensors, and input devices.  The electronic fibers are simply part of the fabric of the textile.  This process makes textiles virtually unlimited in their possibilities of use.


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